Blues 22-24 Crusaders, Eden Park
Crusaders got their Super Rugby 2019 campaign off to a winning start as they edged out Auckland Blues 22-24 at Eden Park on Saturday.
The win means Crusaders are positioned second in New Zealand Conference following the opening round while Blues are at fourth place.
The game also saw All Blacks legend Ma’a Nonu returning to Super Rugby for the first time since 2015 as he started for Blues, who got their first points through Otere Black with a penalty kick in the 14th minute.
Crusaders were not far away from opening their account with Manasa Mataele crossing over in the 18th minute and their momentum got a shot in the arm when Tim Robinson was yellow-carded in the 26th minute that resulted in a penalty try for the visitors as the teams headed into the break with a 3-12 scoreline.
Blues showed better response at the start of the second half with Patrick Tuipulotu offloading Akira Ioane for the side's opening try and by the 50th they got their second with this time replacement Ofa Tu’ungafasi dotting down. Black and Harry Plummer added a conversion apiece as the home side took a 17-12 lead.
The game headed for a tight finish with Mataele's second helping Crusaders level the scores and a scrum penalty try in the 67th minute put them into a seven point lead.
Crusaders suffered a setback when Ben Funnell was sin-binned by the 67th minute and replacement scrum-half Augustine Pulu scored a try with seven minutes left in the game to provide Blues hope but Plummer missed the crucial conversion to leave the hosts short.