Blues 15, Crusaders 17

February 28, 2014
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Both teams come of disappointing starts to the season – ironically both losing by eight points.

The Blues produced a strong second half, but still lost 21-29 to the Highlanders, who held a 24-0 lead at one stage.

The Crusaders were looking to score a late winner with the score at 10-11, before an intercept shattered their dreams in a 10-18 loss to the Chiefs.

Goal-kicking woes were the other features (or rather big negatives) to come out of those defeats.

And, of coarse, there is also the hype surrounding Rugby League recruit Benji Marshall, who will continue his conversion with second-half cameos off the bench.

Blues coach John Kirwan hopes that returning home will help his team get back on the winning track – given their poor pre-season form also did not inspire much confidence.

Winning is vital for the Blues, given that they head off on a two-match tour of South Africa at the weekend – where they will face the Bulls and Lions, before returning home to tackle the Cheetahs in Auckland.

“It’s important we get on the plane to South Africa with some points,” Kirwan said.

“The Crusaders are going to want to win, we’re going to want to win and I think already it’s a huge match, so I’m looking for a very vocal Blues crowd that can help get us over the line.”

The Crusaders – who host the Stormers, travel to Melbourne to play the Rebels and then tackle the Hurricanes at home – will hope their attacking woes improve this week.

Despite the Crusaders’ inability to crack the Chiefs’ defensive line last week,  assistant coach Tabai Matson suggested they are not too far off the pace.

“When you play the best teams, especially the really good defensive teams, you might get two opportunities,” he said.

“Probably we took one of them, but if we had taken another one we wouldn’t be feeling the way we are feeling,” Matson said of the late match-winning interception.

Recent results:
2013: Crusaders won 23-3, Christchurch
2013:  Blues won 34-15, Auckland
2012: Crusaders won 59-12, Christchurch
2012: Crusaders won 19-18, Auckland
2011: Crusaders won 23-16, Timaru
2011: Blues won 24-22, Auckland

Teams:
Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 George Moala, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid (captain)/Brendon O’Connor, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Sam Prattley.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Tony Woodcock, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Liaki Moli, 20 Brendan O’Connor/Jordan Manihera, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Benji Marshall, 23 Pita Ahki.
Crusaders: 15 Colin Slade, 14 Rob Thompson, 13 Reynold Lee-Lo, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Nafi Tuitavake, 10 Tom Taylor, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Richie McCaw, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Dominic Bird, 4 Samuel Whitelock, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Tim Perry.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Adam Whitelock, 23 Israel Dagg.
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand), Shane McDermott (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)

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