Blues cop record Crusaders romp
Reeling from a shock loss to the Rebels, the Crusaders took out their fury on the hapless Blues in a record 59-12 thumping at AMI Stadium on Saturday night.
They scored nine tries to two in a dominant display right across the park, and in particular up front, en route to their highest score against their traditional Investec Super Rugby foes.
Little has gone right for the Blues this season and it was the wrong week to run into the rampant red-and-black machine, which will gain a lot of momentum out of the bonus-point victory even if it did come against the competition easy-beats.
The Crusaders' scrum had the Blues backpedalling at a rate of knots, they stole a number of lineout throws off the opposition throw and used the platform up front to unleash their firepower out wide.
All Blacks linchpin Dan Carter returned to the kicking duties and No.10 jersey in encouraging style for the upcoming three-Test series against Ireland next month, banging over six of eight conversions including a couple from near the touchline before earning a rest in the final quarter.
The All Black-laden forward pack also flexed their muscles, with uncapped lock Luke Romano in particular pushing his case with a try and another fine display next to Test certainty Sam Whitelock.
The forwards deserved the majority of the accolades and they got most of the tangible rewards as well with five of the nine tries scored by the big men, including a double to hooker Corey Flynn.
They had their fourth try and a bonus point wrapped up by the 36th minute, added another before halftime for a 31-0 advantage then ran in four more in the second half.
For the Blues, hardly anything went their way. They kicked aimlessly, fell off tackles, their forwards were shunted back with alarming regularity and the backs tried things that didn't look like coming off.
In further bad news on the injury front, something which has plagued them throughout 2012, Benson Stanley left the field concussed in the 10th minute – an injury that left the Blues short and allowed the Crusaders to score their second try.
The exception to the rule was a double to Lachie Munro, both of which were sustained efforts by the Blues from long-range. They might be well out-classed most weeks but at least they were unwilling to give up.
Pat Lam's not-so-merry men are unlikely to fall back into a cellar-dwelling situation, given the Lions will struggle to beat the resurgent Reds in Brisbane later on Saturday night, but will take little solace from it given they now have a record of two wins and 10 losses.
Meanwhile, the Crusaders leapfrogged back over the Highlanders into second in the New Zealand conference and fifth overall, with a bye next week and the southern derby at home to follow before a three-week break for the Ireland Tests.
Crusaders 59 (C.Flynn 2, M.Todd, R.McCaw, A.Whitelock, L.Romano, A.Ellis, Z.Guildford, T.Marshall tries; D.Carter 6, T.Bleyendaal cons) Blues (L.Munro 2 tries; G.Anscombe con) HT: 31-0