Crusaders earn first win of 2016

04 Mar 2016
Crusaders earn first win of 2016

The Crusaders bounced back from their opening round defeat to comfortably defeat the Blues 28-13 in Christchurch.

Thanks to a dominant set-piece the Crusaders were always out in front of the Blues, who arrived off the back of a morale-boosting win over the Highlanders looking to secure their first victory in Christchurch since 2004.

Todd Blackadders's side however controlled possession and territory throughout, and arguably the scoreline never fully reflected the grip they held on the contest until the end.

With the lineout firing it was through the scrum that the Crusaders scored their first try, multiple penalties short of the Blues line eventually forcing referee Paul Williams to run under the posts and award a penalty try.

Tries by Kieran Read and Richie Mo'unga late on then wrapped up the win, with Tevita Li's score in response coming too late to affect the result, as the Blues paid for coughing up too many penalties and for lacking a little direction in attack with some aimless kicking.

Mo'unga was again given the nod at fly-half by Todd Blackadder and the 21-year-old opened the scoring off an early penalty after the Blues failed to roll away.

Tana Umaga's surprising number of changes, including both his half-backs, allowed new number ten Matt McGahan to reply for the visitors with the visitors' first points from a penalty in the 12th minute to make it 3-3.

A set of energy-sapping phases inside Blues' territory then gave the Crusaders a chance to strike from the scrum, with Kieran Read poised to pick up and carry from the base, but after yet another scrum penalty the referee had seen enough and awarded the penalty try to the hosts.

Mo'unga's attempt to add a drop goal was unsuccessful but the fly-half did add a penalty to give the Crusaders a healthy ten-point advantage at 13-3.

But the hosts left more points out on the field before the break, Mo'unga failing to land his third penalty before Ben Volavola, on as an early replacement, couldn't convert a long-range drop goal.

The start of the second half saw the Crusaders turn down three opportunities to kick more points from penalties as they went after a second try, putting together impressive phase numbers without ultimately finding a breakthrough.

Failing to add to their lead, it was then the Blues who chipped back through a penalty from Ihaia West.

Mo'unga had a chance to respond off the tee but he bizarrely hooked his kick from a simple position, to the point where the ball bounced all the way wide to the left touchline with Nemani Nadolo almost able to scoop up and score a try in the corner.

Mo'unga made no mistake with his next effort to restore the Crusaders' ten-point advantage but they wanted more, and turned to the excellent Nadolo for inspiration.

The giant Fiji winger bounced off Matt Duffie to get the crowd going before the Crusaders shipped the ball wide, David Havili make the key cut infield before offloading to Read for a well-worked try.

Tevita Li's converted try gave the Blues at least a chance going into the final five minutes, but Mo'unga snuffed out those hopes with an interception try for his second five-pointer in two games, the Blues' loose pass typifying an error-filled night for Tana Umaga's team.

The Crusaders meanwhile head into their bye up and running in this year's competition, with key players still to come back from injury and many reasons to be optimistic.