Saturday night is chalked up to be one of the most exciting games of our season, and it’s not just because the squad is back on home soil.
The annual Blues v Crusaders clash has returned to Auckland, a rivalry that spans the Super Rugby competition and brings out the best in both sides. Paul Neazor has run the numbers and is here to fill us in on how the two teams match up.
This is a normally tough matchup that is often decided by seven points or less, with several matches in Blues’ territory being within that range. Although the 2003 and 2005 round-robin matches saw massacres.
That 2003 result (39-5 to the Blues) represented the Crusaders’ biggest loss since the 51-16 drubbing in Canberra at the start of 2001.
The Crusaders score was the lowest in Super 12 in 2003 and the only time a side completed a match with a solitary score. The 34-point margin was one of the most decisive of the year and ended the Crusaders’ hopes of matching the Blues’ competition-record 16-game unbeaten streak.
The 2003 final was a replay of the 1998 fixture, when the Crusaders ended the Blues’ winning run and began a series of three wins for themselves.
In 2003 both teams went against predictions, with the Crusaders scoring more tries but missing four of five shots at goal and the Blues scoring two tries but succeeding through better kicking.
In 2004 the Blues took an unexpected win at Christchurch after Rupeni Caucaunibuca bagged a hat-trick and ended with Carlos Spencer completing a length-of-the-field try by running from the posts to the corner flag to touch down; he then converted it from the sideline amid a chorus of boos that were fully justified for the taunting, not for the fact it was Spencer who scored.
The 2005 contest became spiteful and featured the ordering-off of Ali Williams as well as a rash of post-match suspensions, while the Crusaders set new records against the Blues for highest score and biggest winning margin, which could have been much greater as the Blues ran in a couple of late tries.
The first 2012 match was decided in the final minute, when Israel Dagg deflected Piri Weepu’s dropped goal attempt just enough to push it wide of the uprights, but the second match was an absolute blowout.
Having just lost to the Rebels, the Crusaders gave the Blues a record hiding and scored four tries in each half on the way; the score fell a few points short of the highest the Blues have ever conceded but the margin was, by some distance, their biggest to any team.
The Blues then reversed positions in the first 2013 match, giving the Crusaders a five-tries-to-none hiding on Eden Park and proving value for every point.
That was followed later in the year by the Crusaders holding the Blues to a solitary penalty goal at Christchurch, thus matching the record of the 2004 Reds, the only other team to have held the Blues to a score of 3 in Super rugby.
Daniel Carter scored 136 points against the Blues, the only player to have reached 100 against the Aucklanders, and Andrew Mehrtens, who scored over 100 points against Auckland in NPC matches, scored 93 points in eight matches against the Blues.
Both teams have won three of their four most recent matches:
Round 9: bye
Round 10: beat Rebels 36-30 (h)
Round 11: beat Kings 34-18 (a)
Round 12: lost to Lions 5-43 (a)
Round 13: beat Force 17-13 (a)
Round 9: beat Brumbies 40-14 (a)
Round 10: bye
Round 11: beat Reds 38-5 (h)
Round 12: lost to Highlanders 26-34 (a)
Round 13: beat Waratahs 29-10 (h)