Rampant Blues smash the Crusaders in Auckland
The Auckland Blues took apart the Canterbury Crusaders in a thumping 34-15 Super Rugby win on Friday, outscoring their illustrious New Zealand rivals by five tries to none at Eden Park.
Steven Luatua touched down before wing Frank Halai scored two tries for the second time in two matches to put the home side 20-6 ahead against the seven-time champions.
Dan Carter hauled the Crusaders to within five points at the start of the second half with his fifth penalty but the Blues, who finished bottom of the New Zealand standings last year, stood firm.
Flanker Luke Braid crossed to give the home side a bonus point and wing George Moala scorched past four Canterbury defenders with six minutes left to touchdown and put the gloss on the impressive performance.
The Crusaders were extremely rusty after a first-round bye,uncertain under the high ball and — with New Zealand captain Richie McCaw on a six-month sabbatical — uncharacteristically vulnerable at the breakdown.
The Crusaders did improve in the final quarter but Israel Dagg was denied a crucial try in the left corner before Auckland’s late flurry. The television referee ruling that the All Black wing failed to release the ball in a tackle before crossing.
It was the Blues’ second bonus point win following a first-round victory in Wellington last week and firmly places John Kirwin’s side among the contenders for a title they have not won wince 2003.
“We created opportunities for ourselves out wide,” Bluesscrumhalf Piri Weepu said in a pitchside interview. “But we’ve got to be a little bit tighter around our defence.”
Weepu was erratic with his kicking but he laid on Luatua’s opening try before Halai scored twice in the right-hand corner.
His first try came after the Blues recycled the ball near the left corner flag and spread it quickly across the line, while his second was down to quick thinking from flyhalf Chris Noakes, who chipped the ball over the top to him.
Carter dragged the Crusaders to within eight points at theinterval and trimmed the deficit further at the start of the second period, but Braid picked up and went over from a yard from an opening that came from another spilled high ball by the visitors.
And moments after Dagg was denied a score that would have given Carter a shot at making the score 27-22 with eight minutes left, Moala raced away to send the home fans wild.
Auckland — Tries: Steven Luatua, Frank Halai (2), Luke Braid, George Moala. Conversions: Piri Weepu, Chris Noakes, Baden Kerr; Penalty: Weepu.
Canterbury — Penalties: Dan Carter (5).