The Blues’ disappointing record in Christchurch continued as they succumbed to a ruthless Crusaders outfit 23-3 tonight.
It has been nine long years since the Blues managed a victory over the Red and Blacks in the Garden City, and that record was extended for yet another year as they were overwhelmed by a clinical Crusaders performance.
They may have piled on five tries to nil in their first encounter at Eden Park in round three as they defeated the Crusaders 34-15, but all the Blues could manage tonight was a solitary penalty goal ñ the first time they have been held to single digits in 97 matches.
The Blues had the lion’s share of both possession and territory in the first 10 minutes as they pinned the Crusaders in their own half, but all too often they found themselves going laterally and unable to penetrate the Crusaders’ rock solid defensive wall.
In slippery conditions at the rain soaked AMI Stadium, it took 22 minutes for the first points to be scored, Crusaders fullback Tom Taylor slotting a penalty goal after Ali Williams was penalised for hands in the ruck.
The Crusaders piled the pressure onto the Blues in defence and forced them into making errors, and it paid off four minutes later when Ryan Crotty charged down a Chris Noakes kick and regathered the ball to score.
Noakes managed to hit back for the visitors with a penalty goal, but when Culum Retallick was shown a controversial yellow card for deliberately knocking the ball on, Taylor nailed a three pointer on the stroke of halftime to give the home side a 13-3 lead.
With Retallick sitting out the first 10 minutes of the second half, the Crusaders turned up the heat on the Blues’ forward pack and made the most of their one man advantage.
After the Blues were twice penalised for bringing down the Crusaders’ rolling maul and warned another infringement would be dealt with more severely, prop Owen Franks crashed over the line on the third attempt.
Taylor certainly brought his kicking boots to AMI Stadium this evening as he slotted the conversion and landed his third†penalty kick to give the Crusaders an unassailable 23-3 lead with 20 minutes remaining.
Francis Saili was introduced to the game midway through the second half to spark his side into action and he did just that, setting up a certain try scoring opportunity for wing Frank Halai.
However the Television Match Official was called in to see if Halai had grounded the ball over the line and he was unable to give a definitive answer as the try was denied.
To their credit, the Blues continued to throw everything they had at the Crusaders in the closing stages of the game, none moreso than Rene Ranger who threatened to break open the game all night.
But they were unable to find any way through as the Blues were leapfrogged by the Crusaders who now move into second place on the New Zealand conference ladder.
The Blues return home to Auckland to face the Brumbies at Eden Park on Saturday night.