Written by Max Sharp.
A lot of supporters though victory as such was on the way last year and were bitterly disappointed. 2022 has continued to deliver amazing things and the Blues' first victory against the Crusaders since 2004 has arrived at last. This spectacle was the best match of the season so far, with a narrow 27-23 result allowing for drama all the way to the 79th minute. We'll read through the games of numbers 1 through to 23, to see what allowed Leon MacDonald's Blues to defeat his former team as a coach!
Blues Player Ratings
Loosehead Prop - Alex Hodgman (7/10)
The loosehead prop had a dominant scrum of 100% and piled his body into the ruck. Though he made just 1 metre off 4 carries, it took quite a few Crusaders to bring Hodgman down. His 5 tackles all hurt too, though he later failed an HIA.
Hooker - Kurt Eklund (8/10)
Hard carries and dominant tackling is the norm from Eklund and he did just that here, totalling 31 metres and 1 clean break off 8 carries. Managed to get 2 passes and complete all of his 11 tackles, showed great coordination to still score the try after Mo'unga covered him.
Tighthead Prop - Ofa Tu'ungafasi (8/10)
We all expected a return to form and Tu'ungafasi has done so at last. The 29-year-old used his immense frame to run 38 metres and beat 1 defender off 8 carries, completing 3 passes and 6 tackles. That's the kind of performance that will keep his test career ongoing.
Lock 4 - Luke Romano (7/10)
It was the first time we saw Romano happy over a Crusaders loss and fair enough, he'll be pleased to have beaten his old team. Similar to Hodgman, not the greatest attack, but provided 13 robust tackles, 1 turnover and his experience at an 88% lineout.
Lock 5 - Josh Goodhue (6/10)
Only on the pitch for 42 minutes but still managed 10 tackles, nice stuff. Was calling the lineouts, though he only managed 1 metre and beat 1 defender off 1 carry. Solid rather than spectacular.
Blindside Flanker - Tom Robinson (6/10)
Used his experience to glue the pack together. Robinson, similarly to Goodhue, wasn't the greatest performer, but did his job; running 5 metres off 5 carries and making 4 passes, 1 offload and 10 tackles in his 71 minutes.
Openside Flanker - Dalton Papali'i (10/10)
McCaw-esque is probably the only hyperbole which can do such a performance justice. Papali'i scored a try, ran 52 metres, beat 6 defenders, made 2 clean breaks, all off a mere 4 carries. Made 1 turnover and didn't miss a single tackle either, completing 21/21 including a game-saver with 2 minutes left in combination with Ioane. The Papali'i vs Cane debate is over, for good.
Number 8 - Hoskins Sotutu (8/10)
It was the kind of performance Sotutu needed; he wasn't too flashy with lots of carries though his 2 carries lead to 10 metres and 2 defenders beaten. Got stuck into the rucks and made the second-most tackles of the game, with 20. Good stuff.
Halfback - Finlay Christie (9/10)
Has been a completely different player since joining the Blues and ran their game plan well. Sniped off the ruck to score a try, though he ran just 2 metres off the carry. A massive 73 quick passes were completed before he was substituted, this was a career-best game.
First-Five - Beauden Barrett (8/10)
Though some are saying Barrett dominated Mo'unga; they have forgotten the fact that he only made 2 tackles, once threw the ball into touch, 2 knock-ons and had tactical kicking that wasn't as influential. Barrett did manage, however, to make the most of the remaining opportunities presented. His attacking stats ended as 80 metres, 2 defenders beaten, 1 clean break and 8 carries, nobody in their right mind would give stats like those a low rating.
Left Wing - AJ Lam (6/10)
Lam wasn't as effective as Caleb Clarke would've been, but still managed 18 metres and 1 defender beaten off 3 carries. Came off his wing a fair bit to get in the breakdown and succeeded on defence with 8 tackles.
Second-Five - Bryce Heem (7/10)
Not cool to fix what isn't broken so keep Heem at 12 for the rest of his career. Used his 1.93m, 103kg frame to run 16 metres off 3 carries. Though he only made 4 passes, we saw some incredible defence, 12 tackles and 1 turnover. Genuine excellence, aged 33.
Centre - Rieko Ioane (10/10)
Against France in 2021, Rieko Ioane at long last confirmed he was indeed a centre. This was an even more effective performance than that though, he was everywhere, didn't even make a single error in the game. His 7 carries were hard, up the guts, leading to 24 metres and 4 defenders beaten, his 5 passes and 1 offload kept things alive, while Ioane's world-class defence of 14 tackles and 1 turnover included a match-saver.
Right Wing - Mark Telea (6/10)
The right-winger had three early struggles, two under the high ball and a defensive misread that allowed Jordan to score. Did well otherwise, with 47 metres and 1 defender beaten coming off 2 carries. Provided 8 tackles and 1 turnover when coming off the wing to defend.
Fullback - Stephen Perofeta (5/10)
Provided a running game of 57 metres, 4 defenders beaten and 1 clean break off 6 carries, but Perofeta also made some schoolboy errors, namely 2 knock-ons and a bad missed tackle on Reece. Distributed well, with 8 passes, meaning Perofeta had an average game.
Reserve Hooker - Ricky Riccitelli (No rating)
Won't be rated due to coming off the bench with 9 minutes to go; Riccitelli only made 4 tackles while on the field.
Reserve Loosehead Prop - Jordan Lay (6/10)
Came on for Alex Hodgman (who failed an HIA in the 44th minute) and didn't get too involved with the game, with the exception of the set-piece. Lay kept the scrum rate at 100% so he'll be happy with that.
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Nepo Laulala (6/10)
Returned from his three-game suspension after being red-carded against Moana Pasifika. Laulala scrummaged strongly and made 5/6 tackles after coming on for the rampaging Tu'ungafasi with 20 minutes left.
Reserve Lock - James Tucker (6/10)
A wise move in bringing an experienced player off the bench was made. Tucker joined the party by coming on for Goodhue and defended with authority, his 8 tackles were the most of the team's substitutes. Also made 1 metre off his lone carry.
Reserve Loose Forward - Adrian Choat (6/10)
Choat possibly could have been subbed on earlier in the game. May have only played 9 minutes, but used up serious energy while on, running 2 metres off 1 carry and completing all 4 of his tackles.
Reserve Halfback - Taufa Funaki (No rating)
Had to play the final 7 minutes after Christie appeared injured, the 21-year-old Funaki did so calmly. Can't really make a comment besides that one though, he won't be rated as he made a single pass and 2 tackles.
Reserve Midfielder - Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (5/10)
Came on in the 64th minute for Heem and didn't add too much notable impact. Chelsea Semple's pre-match commentary on Tuivasa-Sheck seemed to feel a bit exaggerated after he made just 3 tackles and a single carry (though he ran 5 metres off it).
Reserve Utility Back - Zarn Sullivan (6/10)
The stat board would trick you into thinking Sullivan's 3 metres off 1 carry and 3 passes didn't make too much of a difference; but his ball-handling of the high ball and tactical kicking provided some impact. Barrett seemed to play better with Sullivan at 15 as well.