Blues hand winless Crusaders fifth straight Super Rugby loss

rugby23 March 2024 09:30| © AFP
article image
© Getty Images

The hapless Canterbury Crusaders sunk to a new Super Rugby low on Saturday, well beaten 26-6 by the Auckland Blues to suffer their fifth successive defeat.

A Crusaders side weakened by injuries and departed stars had no answer to the more physical Blues, who ended a seven-match losing streak against the visitors at Eden Park.

It was a sobering result for the winless seven-time defending champions, who trailed 9-6 at halftime but dropped from contention when they conceded converted tries to Ofa Tu'ungafasi and A.J. Lam soon after the interval.

The only two tries of the game, both came while scrum-half Willi Heinz was off the field, having been shown a yellow card for a professional foul.

It was the heaviest loss of the season for the Crusaders, whose new coach Rob Penney has struggled to find the winning formula of his predecessor Scott Robertson, who has departed to take charge of the All Blacks.

Captain David Havili lamented a mistake-riddled performance and high missed-tackle count.

"We just couldn't build any pressure and a settled team like the Blues make you pay for it. They did that in the second half," Havili said.

"The effort's there, it's just those big moments that we can't execute and it's costing us."

The Blues won seven of the Crusaders' 13 lineout throws and fly-half Stephen Perofeta -- who kicked 16 points -- said their set piece advantage proved critical in wet conditions.

"We just wanted to make it real simple this week. The Crusaders have dominated the physical battle, that set piece battle, every year that they've been successful," Perofeta said.

The Waikato Chiefs joined the Blues on four wins from five following their 28-21 defeat of the Otago Highlanders in another all-New Zealand derby.

After scoring the first four tries of the match in Hamilton, the Chiefs had to withstand a fierce second-half fightback from the Highlanders.

The visitors earned a bonus point by crossing twice in the closing stages after Chiefs captain Luke Jacobson was shown a yellow card for a high tackle.

Earlier, Kemu Valetini landed a drop goal in sudden-death extra time to lift the Fijian Drua to a thrilling 39-36 home win over the New South Wales Waratahs.

The Drua claimed their first-ever victory over the Australian side, achieving it in the ninth minute of extra time after the scores were locked 36-36 after 80 minutes in Lautoka.

Midfield back Iosefo Masi scored a first-half hat-trick to power the Drua to a 26-10 lead at halftime.

The visiting Waratahs defied hot, humid conditions in Lautoka to fight back after the interval, with hooker Mahe Vailanu bagging a brace of tries.

While the Drua improved their record to two wins from five matches, the Waratahs have just a solitary win.