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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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Super Rugby 2015

Round 1
Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
CRU 10 vs REB 20 Report Stats
BRU 47 vs RED 3 Stats
Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
LIO 8 vs HUR 22 Report Stats
BLU 18 vs CHF 23 Report Stats
Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
SHA 29 vs CHT 35 Report Stats
BUL 17 vs STO 29 Report Stats
WAR 13 vs FOR 25 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHF 19 vs BRU 17 Report Stats
REB 28 vs WAR 38 Report Stats
Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
BUL 13 vs HUR 17 Report Stats
HIG 20 vs CRU 26 Report Stats
RED 18 vs FOR 6 Report Stats
Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
STO 27 vs BLU 16 Report Stats
SHA 29 vs LIO 12 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
HIG 20 vs RED 13 Report Stats
FOR 13 vs HUR 42 Stats
Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHT 25 vs BLU 24 Report Stats
CHF 40 vs CRU 16 Stats
REB 15 vs BRU 20 Report Stats
Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL 43 vs SHA 35 Report Stats
LIO 19 vs STO 22 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF 17 vs HIG 20 Report Stats
BRU 27 vs FOR 15 Report Stats
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
BLU 10 vs LIO 13 Report Stats
RED 5 vs WAR 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHT 20 vs BUL 39 Report Stats
STO 29 vs SHA 13 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR 30 vs BLU 23 Report Stats
FOR 17 vs REB 21 Report Stats
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU 34 vs LIO 6 Report Stats
HIG 26 vs WAR 19 Report Stats
RED vs BRU 29 Stats
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
STO 19 vs CHF 28 Report Stats
CHT 10 vs SHA 27 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
HIG 13 vs HUR 20 Report Stats
REB 16 vs LIO 20 Report Stats
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU 57 vs CHT 14 Report Stats
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL 25 vs FOR 24 Report Stats
SHA 12 vs CHF 11 Report Stats
WAR 28 vs BRU 13 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR 36 vs REB 12 Report Stats
RED 17 vs LIO 18 Report Stats
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF 37 vs CHT 27 Report Stats
HIG 39 vs STO 21 Report Stats
WAR 23 vs BLU 11 Report Stats
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
SHA 15 vs FOR 9 Report Stats
BUL 31 vs CRU 19 Report Stats
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Round 8
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
HUR 25 vs STO 20 Report Stats
REB 23 vs RED 15 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
CHF 23 vs BLU 16 Report Stats
BRU 20 vs CHT 3 Report Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
SHA 10 vs CRU 52 Report Stats
LIO 22 vs BUL 18 Report Stats
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Round 9
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
BLU 16 vs BRU 14 Report Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU 20 vs HIG 25 Report Stats
WAR 18 vs STO 32 Report Stats
FOR 15 vs CHT 24 Report Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
LIO 23 vs SHA 21 Report Stats
BUL 43 vs RED 22 Report Stats
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Round 10
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU 9 vs CHF 26 Report Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
HUR 24 vs WAR 29 Report Stats
HIG 30 vs BLU 24 Report Stats
BRU 8 vs REB 13 Report Stats
FOR 6 vs STO 13 Report Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
SHA 10 vs BUL 17 Report Stats
CHT 17 vs RED 18 Report Stats
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Round 11
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
CHF 35 vs FOR 27 Report Stats
BRU 31 vs HIG 18 Report Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU 29 vs BLU 15 Report Stats
WAR 18 vs REB 16 Report Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
LIO 34 vs CHT 29 Report Stats
STO 15 vs BUL 13 Report Stats
RED 19 vs HUR 35 Report Stats
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Round 12
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
HIG 48 vs SHA 15 Report Stats
BRU 10 vs WAR 13 Report Stats
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU 41 vs FOR 24 Report Stats
HUR 29 vs CRU 23 Report Stats
REB 16 vs CHF 15 Report Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT 25 vs STO 17 Report Stats
BUL 35 vs LIO 33 Report Stats
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Round 13
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU vs RED 17:35AMI
REB vs BLU 19:40AAMI
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR vs SHA 17:35WS
FOR vs WAR 19:40nib Stadium
LIO vs HIG 23:00Emirates Airlines Park
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
STO vs BRU 01:05DHL Newlands
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Round 14
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs BUL 17:35EP
RED vs REB 19:40SS
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR vs CHF 17:35WS
WAR vs SHA 19:40AS
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
LIO vs BRU 01:05Emirates Airlines Park
CHT vs HIG 03:10FSS
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Round 15
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
CHF vs BUL 17:35Rotorua International Stadium
RED vs SHA 19:40SS
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs HUR 17:35Emirates Airlines Park
WAR vs CRU 19:40ANZ
FOR vs HIG 21:45nib Stadium
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT vs LIO 01:05FSS
STO vs REB 03:10DHL Newlands
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Round 16
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU vs HUR 17:35Trafalgar Park
BRU vs BUL 19:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
SHA vs REB 03:10Growthpoint Kings Park
HIG vs CHF 17:35Rugby Park
FOR vs RED 19:40nib Stadium
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
STO vs CHT 01:05DHL Newlands
LIO vs WAR 03:10Emirates Airlines Park
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Round 17
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
HUR vs HIG 17:35McLean Park
FOR vs BRU 21:00nib Stadium
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
REB vs BUL 15:30AAMI
BLU vs CRU 17:35EP
RED vs CHF 19:40SS
CHT vs WAR 23:00FSS
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
STO vs LIO 01:05DHL Newlands
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Round 18
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
BLU vs HIG 17:35EP
REB vs FOR 19:40AAMI
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
BRU vs CRU 15:30GIO Stadium
CHF vs HUR 17:35Yarrow Stadium
WAR vs RED 19:40AS
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
BUL vs CHT 01:05Loftus Versfeld
SHA vs STO 03:10Growthpoint Kings Park
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Round 19
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 09:00
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
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Round 20
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 09:00
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 09:00
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Round 21
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 09:00
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Bulls 11 7 4 0 48 34
Brumbies 11 6 5 0 93 32
Chiefs 11 8 3 0 77 38
Waratahs 10 7 3 0 32 31
Stormers 11 7 4 0 25 30
Highlanders 10 7 3 0 53 33
Lions 11 6 5 0 -45 27
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