Played at a Test-match like intensity in front of a packed house at Orangetheory Stadium, the Crusaders were lucky to only trail by seven points after 15 minutes as the Blues crossed for one try and had two other opportunities snuffed out in a breathless opening stanza.
The Blues opening try came on the back of intense pressure which saw impressive No.8 Hoskins Sotutu held up over the line before wing Mark Telea dived over unmarked in the corner.
Fresh from scoring the game’s opener, Telea then gave the Crusaders a taste of his counter-attacking ability by setting off on a blistering 60 metre run before being pulled down just short of the line.
The Crusaders absorbed another period of attack before grinding their way back into the contest through the boot of Richie Mo’unga.
With the game on a knife-edge at 9-10 in the 54th minute, it seemed like the Blues had dealt a decisive blow when Rieko Ioane crossed for a try following a quick tap from his brother Akira.
A successful conversion from in front would have stretched the Blues to beyond seven points but it wasn’t to be as Braydon Ennor effected a rare charge down on Otere Black.
Ennor’s incredible effort seemed to breathe life into the Crusaders.
They took the lead for the first time in the match just minutes later when replacement halfback Mitchell Drummond crossed following a methodical build up. A fourth penalty to Richie Mo’unga then stretched the Crusaders out to a 19-15 lead with just 12 minutes remaining.
The Crusaders are a team who know how to close out games and a late try to impressive youngster Will Jordan was the icing on the cake of a special night at Orangetheory Stadium.
The Blues rode into town with high hopes of derailing the Crusaders juggernaut. For 60 minutes it looked like they would. Like the Crusaders have done time and time again, they found another gear and showed why they are the reigning champions.
The win leaves the Crusaders as the only unbeaten team in the competition on 18 points after four games, six points clear of the second placed Blues.
Next week, the Blues are on the road against the Hurricanes in Wellington while the Crusaders enjoy their second and final bye of the competition.
Crusaders 26 (Mitchell Drummond, Will Jordan tries, Richie Mo’unga 4 pen, 2 con) Blues 15 (Mark Telea, Rieko Ioane tries, Otere Black con, pen)