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Crusaders stun Blues to stay in Super Rugby contention as Force crash

By AFP

May 25, 2024 06:50 PM


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The Canterbury Crusaders upset the table-topping Auckland Blues 29-27 on Saturday to maintain their slim chance of qualifying for the Super Rugby Pacific quarter-finals.

The seven-time defending champions fought back from 10 points down in Christchurch to hand the Blues their second loss of the season.

It was only the third win for the Crusaders, whose playoff hopes would have ended with defeat.

Instead, they can still sneak into the top eight if they beat Moana Pasifika in the final round next week and other games fall in their favour.

Their cause was helped by ninth-place Western Force being thumped 59-13 by the Queensland Reds in a nine-tries-to-one thrashing in Brisbane.

The Force face a must-win clash with the ACT Brumbies next week to keep their playoff dream alive.

All hope seemed lost for the Crusaders when the Blues surged ahead 22-12 soon after half-time through a converted try to winger AJ Lam.

But the home side regrouped and crossed through Christian Lio-Willie and Noah Hotham to reclaim the lead and hold it to the end, even after conceding a second try to Lam.

"This means so much. It was a big week for us, we haven't put in the performances we wanted to over the last couple of weeks," said Crusaders scrum-half Hotham.

"In our last games, we've dropped off on those last 20 minutes so it was just trying to learn lessons and play the full 80."

A bonus point left the Blues level on top of the standings with the Wellington Hurricanes but still in first place because of a superior points differential.

 Poor discipline 

 Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu said they need to improve their discipline after a yellow card to fullback Stephen Perofeta swung the contest in the Crusaders' favour.

"We were on the back foot and they had a lot of the momentum in that second half," Tuipulotu said.

"They made us pay, playing with one man down."

Prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi scored two first-half tries to help put the Blues 15-12 ahead at the break, with Ethan Blackadder and Chay Fihaki having crossed for the Crusaders.

An ill-disciplined Force conceded a try in the fifth minute and were always on the back foot in Brisbane, going to the break 25-6 behind.

It got worse after the interval as the Reds ran away with the match to consolidate fifth spot on the ladder.

Tim Ryan (three), Fraser McReight (two), Jock Campbell, Seru Uru, Matt Faessler and Josh Nasser all bagged tries for the home team.

Earlier, Moana Pasifika beat NSW Waratahs 27-12 in Auckland to knock the last-placed Australian side out of playoff contention.

Veteran former Wallabies prop Sekope Kepu was among the try-scorers, one day after announcing he would retire at the end of the Super Rugby season.


AFP


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