Match Centre: Blues 27-43 Crusaders

Richie Mo'unga contributed with 28 points
Richie Mo'unga contributed with 28 points
©Steve Haag

Blues 27-43 Crusaders, Eden Park

Crusaders have maintained their perfect run in the ongoing Super Rugby Aotearoa season as they defeated Auckland Blues 43-27 in the fourth round at Eden Park.

This is fourth win for the defending Champions from as many games as they hold the top place with 18 points while Blues are at second with nine points after losing their first game in three matches.

Blues applied early pressure on Crusaders and won a penalty at scrum which Otere Black kicked in the eighth minute to get them on board but the visitors responded back in the 11th minute after a grubber kick from Bryn Hall was gathered by Jack Goodhue as he went past Akira Ioane for the opening try.

A conversion from Mo'unga took Crusaders to a four-point lead but it was short-lived as Blues seized on the lost possession from the visitors in midfield and Blake Gibson dotted down in the 20th minute but Black missed the conversion as the scoreline became 8-7.

Mo'unga's maiden penalty kick in the 27th minute brought Crusaders in front again and they ensured they had the momentum heading into the break after Codie Taylor at the back of a maul went over the line for the fourth time this season with the All Blacks fly-half improving as the teams finished the opening half with a 8-17 lead.

The third quarter saw Mo'unga punish Blues for their indiscipline as he slotted four penalties but Blues replacement Kurt Eklund kept his side in the game with a powerful drive that saw him touchdown with the scoreline becoming 15-29 ahead of the final quarter.

The gap between the sides came down to nine points with Eklund scoring his second try of the game in the 66th minute. However, Mo'unga stepped up the gears as he pierced the gap in Blues defence and went past a desperate tackle from Eklund to score a converted try making it 20-36.

Hoskins Sotutu scored the fourth try for Blues in the 72nd minute with Harry Plummer converting giving the home side an outside chance which vanished after Ofa Tu'ungafasi was sin-binned in the 75th minute as Sevu Reece with the final try for Crusaders sealed a 16-point victory.

Team line-up:

Blues: 15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Harry Plummer, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Otere Black, 9 Jonathan Ruru; 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Luteru Tolai, 1 Alex Hodgman

Replacements: 16 Kurt Eklund, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Tom Robinson, 21 Adrian Choat, 22 Finlay Christie, 23 TJ Faiane

Crusaders: 15 Will Jordan, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 David Havili, 11 Leicester Fainga’anuku, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Sione Havili Talitui, 6 Ethan Blackadder, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody

Replacements: 16 Brodie McAlister, 17 George Bower, 18 Oli Jager, 19 Quinten Strange, 20 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Fergus Burke, 23 Dallas McLeod