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Crusaders edge Blues in sizzling opening to season

Date

Liam Napier

BLUES 18 CRUSADERS 19

Nabbed ... Ryan Crotty of the Crusaders is tackled as he attempts to slice through a gap.

Nabbed ... Ryan Crotty of the Crusaders is tackled as he attempts to slice through a gap. Photo: Getty Images

He arrived to rapturous applause but World Cup hero Piri Weepu couldn't nail a last-second dropped goal as the ever-composed Crusaders held on for a tense 19-18 victory in the opening Super Rugby clash at Eden Park tonight.  

MATCH STATS

It was all too familiar suffocation. They didn't adopt the most attractive approach, but missing inspirational captain Richie McCaw and talisman Dan Carter, this a was crucial, high-stakes win that could prove pivotal in the battle for top seedings in the New Zealand conference.

Robbie Fruean of the Crusaders. Click for more photos

Crusaders prevail in opening classic

Crusaders defeat the Blues in a pulsating opening clash to the Super Rugby season. Photo: Getty Images

The Blues, without All Blacks Tony Woodcock and Ma'a Nonu, came in as favourites but simply made too many mistakes in the tight moments. They were outplayed upfront yet could have won had they converted their first-half chances.

A bumper crowd of over 30,000 flocked to Eden Park to witness New Zealand's two favoured teams slug it out. This was also their first taste of rugby since World Cup glory was sealed 124 days ago.

Rookie Crusaders five-eighth Tyler Bleyendaal produced an accomplished and assured display. He led the red and blacks around the park competently, nailed 11 first-half points and made a classy incision late in the match. Two 35-metre penalty misses in the second-half were the 21-year-old's only blemishes. On this evidence he will retain the role next week.   

No cigar ... Piri Weepu of the Blues misses with his match-winning attempt at drop goal.

No cigar ... Piri Weepu of the Blues misses with his match-winning attempt at drop goal. Photo: Getty Images

This was a match of opposing styles. The Blues were keen on frantic movement, utilising the speed and power of Rene Ranger and Rudi Wulf, while the Crusaders' structured style relied on Kieran Read and company laying the platform upfront.

It was the Blues' approach that cashed in early. Again and again they caught the visitors napping with blistering pace making inroads, scoring two tries in the first 10 minutes.  

The absence of Carter's left foot was immediately evident. Israel Dagg's attempted clearance kick was charged by Chris Lowrey. Jerome Kaino botched the grounding, but, luckily, Lowrey was on hand to complete the competition's opening try.

Isaia Toeava and Ranger then linked in a superb break, allowing debut winger David Raikuna to finish a three-man overlap.

Just when you thought the Crusaders were rattled they paused, composed and countered.

As the rain set in, Read's men set about their work with typical patience. With the tight forward gainiing ground around the fringes, Robbie Fruean, who had a powerhouse game, exploited some rare space to stroll through weak tackles from Toeava and Ranger to make it three tries in 20 minutes.

The Blues should have converted more chances. Ably Mathewson dropped the ball over the line in a thumping Read tackle. And a bizarre call with 30 seconds left in the first spell saw them turn down three points, in favour of their shaky lineout, only to be penalised for obstruction. That, ultimately, proved costly.

Michael Hobbs didn't set the world on fire - he missed two of five kicks - in his 55 minute cameo at pivot, but his two succesful penalties gave Pat Lam's side a sniff of victory.

In the final moments, the Blues worked their way down field and set Weepu up for the dropped goal, 10 metres to the left of the posts, but his kick was rushed and limped wide as Read and Dagg pressured.

CRUSADERS 19 (Robert Fruean try Tyler Bleyendaal con 4 pens) bt BLUES 18 (Chris Lowrey, David Raikuna tries Michael Hobbs con 2 pens) at Eden Park. Referee: Chris Pollock.

Fairfax NZ

 

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Round 1
Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
CRU 10vs REB 20 Report Stats
BRU 47vs RED 3 Stats
Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
LIO 8vs HUR 22 Report Stats
BLU 18vs CHF 23 Report Stats
Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
SHA 29vs CHT 35 Report Stats
BUL 17vs STO 29 Report Stats
WAR 13vs FOR 25 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHF 19vs BRU 17 Report Stats
REB 28vs WAR 38 Report Stats
Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
BUL 13vs HUR 17 Report Stats
HIG 20vs CRU 26 Report Stats
RED 18vs FOR 6 Report Stats
Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
STO 27vs BLU 16 Report Stats
SHA 29vs LIO 12 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
HIG 20vs RED 13 Report Stats
FOR 13vs HUR 42 Stats
Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHT 25vs BLU 24 Report Stats
CHF 40vs CRU 16 Stats
REB 15vs BRU 20 Report Stats
Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL 43vs SHA 35 Report Stats
LIO 19vs STO 22 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF 17vs HIG 20 Report Stats
BRU 27vs FOR 15 Report Stats
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
BLU 10vs LIO 13 Report Stats
RED 5vs WAR 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHT 20vs BUL 39 Report Stats
STO 29vs SHA 13 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR 30vs BLU 23 Report Stats
FOR 17vs REB 21 Report Stats
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU 34vs LIO 6 Report Stats
HIG 26vs WAR 19 Report Stats
RED 0vs BRU 29 Stats
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
STO 19vs CHF 28 Report Stats
CHT 10vs SHA 27 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
HIG 13vs HUR 20 Report Stats
REB 16vs LIO 20 Report Stats
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU 57vs CHT 14 Report Stats
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL 25vs FOR 24 Report Stats
SHA 12vs CHF 11 Report Stats
WAR 28vs BRU 13 Report Stats
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Round 7
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR 36vs REB 12 Report Stats
RED 17vs LIO 18 Report Stats
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF 37vs CHT 27 Report Stats
HIG 39vs STO 21 Report Stats
WAR 23vs BLU 11 Report Stats
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
SHA 15vs FOR 9 Report Stats
BUL 31vs CRU 19 Report Stats
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Round 8
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
HUR 25vs STO 20 Report Stats
REB 23vs RED 15 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
CHF 23vs BLU 16 Report Stats
BRU 20vs CHT 3 Report Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
SHA 10vs CRU 52 Report Stats
LIO 22vs BUL 18 Report Stats
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Round 9
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
BLU 16vs BRU 14 Report Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU 20vs HIG 25 Report Stats
WAR 18vs STO 32 Report Stats
FOR 15vs CHT 24 Report Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
LIO 23vs SHA 21 Report Stats
BUL 43vs RED 22 Report Stats
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Round 10
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU 9vs CHF 26 Report Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
HUR 24vs WAR 29 Report Stats
HIG 30vs BLU 24 Report Stats
BRU 8vs REB 13 Report Stats
FOR 6vs STO 13 Report Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
SHA 10vs BUL 17 Report Stats
CHT 17vs RED 18 Report Stats
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Round 11
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
CHF 35vs FOR 27 Report Stats
BRU 31vs HIG 18 Report Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU 29vs BLU 15 Report Stats
WAR 18vs REB 16 Report Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
LIO 34vs CHT 29 Report Stats
STO 15vs BUL 13 Report Stats
RED 19vs HUR 35 Report Stats
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Round 12
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
HIG 48vs SHA 15 Report Stats
BRU 10vs WAR 13 Report Stats
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU 41vs FOR 24 Report Stats
HUR 29vs CRU 23 Report Stats
REB 16vs CHF 15 Report Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT 25vs STO 17 Report Stats
BUL 35vs LIO 33 Report Stats
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Round 13
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU 58vs RED 17 Report Stats
REB 42vs BLU 22 Report Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR 32vs SHA 24 Report Stats
FOR 18vs WAR 11 Report Stats
LIO 28vs HIG 23 Report Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
STO 25vs BRU 24 Report Stats
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Round 14
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU 23vs BUL 18 Report Stats
RED 46vs REB 29 Report Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR 22vs CHF 18 Report Stats
WAR 33vs SHA 18 Report Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
LIO 20vs BRU 30 Report Stats
CHT 24vs HIG 45 Report Stats
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Round 15
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
CHF 34vs BUL 20 Report Stats
RED 14vs SHA 21 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU 5vs HUR 29 Report Stats
WAR 32vs CRU 22 Report Stats
FOR 3vs HIG 23 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT 17vs LIO 40 Report Stats
STO 31vs REB 15 Report Stats
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Round 16
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU 35vs HUR 18 Report Stats
BRU 22vs BUL 16 Report Stats
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
SHA 25vs REB 21 Report Stats
HIG 36vs CHF 9 Report Stats
FOR 10vs RED 32 Report Stats
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
STO 42vs CHT 12 Report Stats
LIO 27vs WAR 22 Report Stats
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Round 17
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
HUR 56vs HIG 20 Report Stats
FOR 20vs BRU 33 Report Stats
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
REB 21vs BUL 20 Report Stats
BLU 11vs CRU 34 Report Stats
RED 3vs CHF 24 Report Stats
CHT 33vs WAR 58 Report Stats
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
STO 19vs LIO 19 Report Stats
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Round 18
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
BLU 7vs HIG 44 Report Stats
REB 11vs FOR 13 Report Stats
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
BRU 24vs CRU 37 Report Stats
CHF 13vs HUR 21 Report Stats
WAR 31vs RED 5 Report Stats
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
BUL 29vs CHT 42 Report Stats
SHA 34vs STO 12 Stats
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Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
HIG 24vs CHF 14 Report Stats
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
STO 19vs BRU 39 Report Stats
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HUR 29vs BRU 9 Stats
WAR 17vs HIG 35 Report Stats
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Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
HUR 14vs HIG 21 Report Stats
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Waratahs 16 11 5 0 96 52
Stormers 16 10 5 1 50 45
Highlanders 16 11 5 0 117 53
Brumbies 16 9 7 0 108 47
Lions 16 9 6 1 -22 42
Chiefs 16 10 6 0 73 48
Bulls 16 7 9 0 9 38
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