Crusaders edge Blues in Super Rugby Pacific, Hurricanes pile on points
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The Christchurch-based Crusaders scored a single try in each half to beat the Auckland-based Blues 15-3 in a pivotal match in Super Rugby Pacific on Saturday.
The match between the fourth-place Blues and fifth-place Crusaders was much-anticipated and watched by a capacity crowd of 17,000 in Christchurch. But while it was physically intense, it provided little in terms of excitement.
The Crusaders hogged possession, especially in the first half when the few shreds the Blues obtained, usually in their own half, were wastefully kicked away by flyhalf Beauden Barrett.
Possession evened out to about 60-40 in favor of the Crusaders during the second half but they retained the advantage in terms of territory and the Blues weren’t able to marshal a coherent attack.
“The game was won with out defense,” Crusaders captain Scott Barrett said. “To hold them to three points was a huge testament. At times it was a bit ugly and we didn’t fire too many shots. But I think we closed down their game and a lot of their firepower didn’t get into the game.”
Thirty minutes passed before the first points came with a try to Crusaders backrower Quinten Strange. Beauden Barrett kicked a penalty and Mo’unga another and that ended the first-half scoring.
In the third minute of the second half, winger Leicester Fainga’anuku finished a long-distance try from a wayward Blues’ kick. The next 37 minutes were scoreless.
“There was plenty of defense out there tonight and some sore bodies,” Blues captain Beauden Barrett said. “They just took their opportunities. There weren’t many in that game. When we sped the ball up in the second half we started to see some opportunities through the middle. But we weren’t good enough to execute and finish.”
The scoring action came in Wellington, where the Hurricanes scored their first try inside two minutes and added 10 more in a record 71-22 win over Moana Pasifika, their eighth win from 11 matches. The Hurricanes posted their highest score in a Super Rugby match, bouncing back from last week’s shock loss to the Fijian Drua.
Three of those tries went to captain Ardie Savea, whose tireless ball-carrying kept the Hurricanes on the front foot.
“I’m proud of the boys’ effort tonight,” Savea said. “We knew what Moana would bring. I’m just happy the boys bounced back after last week and produced a good performance in front of our fans.”
Moana Pasifika also had a try inside five minutes and were competitive at first in a match that produced 48 first-half points. The Hurricanes led 29-19 at halftime then outscored Moana Pasifika 42-3 in the second spell, adding six tries including Savea’s hat trick.
The scrum was a weapon for the Hurricanes in the first half and in the second their fast passing and offloading ability was too much for Moana Pasifika.
Kini Naholo scored two tries and Billy Proctor, Jordie Barrett and Aidan Morgan also touched down for the Hurricanes in the first half. Jacob Devery, Salesi Rayasi and Caleb Delaney added to Savea’s three tries in the second half.
In a later match at Sydney, the New South Wales Waratahs beat the Melbourne Rebels 38-20 after overcoming a 14-0 deficit for their third win in a row.
The Waratahs scored 14 of their points while the Rebels were a player down. Skipper Brad Wilkin and lock Josh Canham were both yellow-carded for trying to pull down Waratahs mauls.
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