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Crusaders Overpower Blues Late

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Crusaders Overpower Blues Late

Wellington, March 6 NZPA - The Crusaders finally broke the shackles to beat the Blues 33-20 in a fiercely fought Super 14 rugby match in Christchurch tonight.

A match that was dominated by the boot and watertight defences for the first three quarters was broken open by tries to Crusaders midfielders Ryan Crotty and Robbie Fruean while first five-eighth Daniel Carter delivered a goalkicking master class to give the hosts a flattering winning margin.

The Crusaders' third victory out of four should confirm their place in the top four while the Blues' second loss will see them remain in the middle of the table.

The match between the two great Super rugby rivals was dominated by aggressive defence and both sides generally resorted to kicking for territory throughout a tight first half, which ended with the Crusaders 16-15 up.

Carter and Blues opposite Stephen Brett -- the former Crusaders No 10 understudy -- dominated the scoring through their boots. Carter landed three penalties and converted the half's only try, which he created with a break for flanker George Whitelock while Brett slotted four penalties and a slick dropped goal.

That was to be the visitors' only points until a late consolation try to halfback Alby Mathewson.

Crusaders captain Richie McCaw admitted his team had been "rusty" in the first half and they gradually gained control of the second stanza, with Carter directing play superbly and their handling errors reducing.

Second five-eighth Crotty's try was a heart-breaker for the Blues, intercepting a loopy pass from winger Rudi Wulf who hoped to launch a counter attack.

Carter landed his fourth penalty on his way to a seven-from-seven, 18-point return, before young centre Fruean showed why his so highly rated as he powered through Brett's attempted tackle and charged 25m for a match-clinching try.

The Blues pack, led by flanker Jerome Kaino, barely took a backward step and they showed their intention in the first act of the game with a surging maul that put the hosts on the back foot.

The Blues struggled at time with their scrum despite the presence of All Blacks front row veterans Tony Woodcock and Keven Mealamu but their lineout and breakdown work was impressive.

McCaw and fellow-All Blacks Brad Thorn and Kieran Read were their usual dominant selves up front but it was the direction of Carter which provided the real difference between the sides.

The Crusaders move 9-8 up in the all-time record between the two sides, who share 10 Super rugby titles between them.

They will face the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday next week while the Blues will cool their heels with a bye.

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