Another New Zealand derby and another day for promising and entertaining rugby. On past form, the Blues are not supposed to have had any chance of a victory here, but this is Super Rugby. Weirder things have happened.
One amazing fact to take into account is that the Blues forward pack on the day is an average of 21 years old! Let that sink in. 21. What was the excuse every other Super Rugby team comes up with about having a young squad?
The Blues were the first to get onto the board with a try and very few expected THAT. The rest of the first half was also a very tight affair and even though the Crusaders overtook the Blues it was still a very tight game,
There was a tight battle going on between some of the top props in New Zealand at scrum time with not much in it. The lineouts were also hotly contested with neither team overshadowing the other.
The difference for most of the first half was the positional play that was lacking from the Blues. They were not as effective as the Crusaders in getting out of their own half.
Most teams have kicking options to exit their own half and it is extremely effective when executed accurately. The difference is that the difference with the Crusaders (and the Chiefs) is that they also have options available to exit by running it.
To do it effectively they work extremely hard off the ball to set up the extra option from any plays in their own half. The overlap is usually there with the opposition back three being back for the kick, so a focused team effort then has the extra option to exit.
This resulted in a couple of brilliant runs into the Blues half from their own 22, putting the Blues under huge pressure.
At halftime, there would have been some harsh words spoken by the Blues coaches. They came out with all of the intent needed and were the first to score getting the score back to 8-11 right after halftime.
Four minutes into the 2nd half it was however the Crusaders that were in under the poles again. The difference once again was the accuracy of execution.
The one challenge that the Blues still need to overcome is the stigma around their team in terms of their losing record in recent years. The confidence levels are just not there from each player on the park. They need a couple of results to go their way to help them find their rhythm.
The Goodhue chip, Mo’unga gather, offload to Goodhue try was just sublime. It sums up the awareness and vision of a team in top form.
It looks like the Blues have finally woken up after a couple of years of average results! It was long overdue for the giants of 1990’s Super Rugby to become a contender again.
During the first half there as a lot good rugby played by the Blues both on attack and defense. The biggest problem that they made was not getting into the Crusaders half first. S0 a lot of their effort was to try and move the ball 50+ meters.
Their vision about taking the correct options and having players in place was just slightly inferior at times to the Scott Robertson Crusaders machine.
It was just lacking a little bit of the accurate execution needed at critical times.
The effort from a couple of their players, especially Karl Tu’inukuafe, is however a clear indication that they are not just in the tournament to make up the numbers. Hopefully, they can kick on and get some more numbers in that “W” column.
The Crusaders were the picture of composure we have gotten used to and it is just something special to see. They are as comfortable attack on the opponents 22 as they are from their own 22 when the opportunity presents itself.
The eventual first try for the Crusaders was a classic display of how they go through the gears. Minutes earlier they were pounded by the Blues defense in their own 22, but they just kept going through their highly skilled gears. It ended up with a lineout a few meters out and the inevitable try from Bridge in the corner.
Execution and hard work without the ball create more opportunities than most defenses can handle. Oppositions will be hard-pressed to unravel this attack.
Best performing players
Blues: Karl Tu’inukuafe (1), Ofa Tuungafasi (3), Patrick Tuipulotu (4), Dalton Papali’i (6), Stephen Perofeta (10), Mark Telea (11)
Crusaders: Cody Taylor (2), Cullen Grace (6), Tom Sanders (8), Richie Mo’unga (10), Jack Goodhue (12) Sevu Reese (14), David Havili (15)
ThysRugby player of the game: Jack Goodhue – there is some power in that mullet. The most impressive midfielder on the filed by some margin.
Top plays of the game
- The Crusaders’ first try in the corner from their lineout. A set move with great execution all the way through to the top pass by Jack Goodhue to put away Bridge for the try
- Numerous Crusaders exits from their own 22 through amazing running. They worked extremely hard off the ball to continuously create options
- Jack Goodhue cutting the Blues defense to shreds with his running lines and well-timed passes
- Mark Telea stepping multiple defenders after fielding the kick in his own half
- Goodhue chip to Mo’unga, back to Goodhue try. Play of the game.
- The scrum move on halfway from the Crusaders with the switch of direction putting away a player for a beautiful (almost) try. The switch of direction completely caught the Blues off guard
Blues: The Blues are still good enough to beat most of the teams in the tournament this year. They are just not yet good enough to be contending for the top honors in New Zealand.
They need to work on their accuracy of execution and be patient enough to build up some rhythm.
Crusaders: Just a joy to watch. I don’t see the tournament being more than a 2 horse race between the Crusaders and the Chiefs. The Stormers have been far more impressive than recent years, but they are not as accomplished as the Crusaders in all areas of the game.
The Crusaders bring unconventional extra dimensions to the game that people don’t normally assume are plausible. Their execution throughout is however a joy to behold.