Crusaders make statement with big victory

12:38, May 18 2013
Dan Carter
Dan Carter flings it wide.
Crusaders
Crusaders win the lineout against the Blues at Eden Park.
Crusaders
The Crusaders gather behind their goal-line after conceding a try to the Blues.
Robbie Fruean
Robbie Fruean on the charge for the Crusaders against the Blues.
Kieran Read
Kieran Read looks on disconsolately after the Crusaders one-point loss to the Hurricanes.
Ryan Crotty
Ryan Crotty makes a break for the Crusaders.
Israel Dagg
Israel Dagg (centre) celebrates with team-mates after scoring against the Hurricanes.
Dan Carter
Dan Carter chases down the loose ball.
Crusaders v Bulls
Robbie Fruean celebrates his try as the Crusaders finally get a win this season over the Bulls.
Crusaders v Bulls
Ryan Crotty makes a break during the Crusaders win over the Bulls.
Crusaders v Bulls
Tom Marshall fends off a Bulls tackle.
Crusaders v Bulls
Zac Guildford watches from the stands as the Crusaders beat the Bulls.
Crusaders v Bulls
Captain Kieran Read was a standout in the Crusaders win over the Bulls in Christchurch.
Zac Guildford runs the ball against the Kings.
Zac Guildford runs the ball against the Kings.
Crusaders vs Kings
Dan Carter is a tackled by a Kings player.
Crusaders vs Kings
The Crusaders score a try against the Kings.
The Crusaders score a try against the Kings
The Crusaders score a try against the Kings
Crusaders 2013 Season
The Crusaders celebrate the win during the Super Rugby match between DHL Stormers and Crusaders in Cape Town.
Crusaders 2013 Season
Crusaders celebrate the try of Matt Todd during the Super Rugby match between DHL Stormers and Crusaders in Cape Town.
Crusaders 2013 Season
Tom Marshall of the Crusaders during the Super Rugby match between DHL Stormers and Crusaders in Cape Town.
Crusaders 2013 Season
Matt Todd of the Crusaders scores a try during the Super Rugby match between DHL Stormers and Crusaders in Cape Town.
Crusaders v Sharks
Owen Franks is tackled during the Crusaders 21-17 loss to the Sharks in Durban.
Crusaders v Sharks
Andy Ellis scores a try during the Crusaders' loss to the Sharks.
Crusaders v Sharks
Franco van der Merwe of the Sharks out-jumps Sam Whitelock.
Crusaders v Sharks
The Sharks celebrate their win over the Crusaders in Durban.
Crusaders v Force
Israel Dagg is tackled by the Force's Junior Raolea.
Crusaders v Force
Sam Whitelock breaks a line during the Crusaders' loss to the Force.
Crusaders v Force
Luke Romano dives over for a try which would later be disallowed.
Crusaders v Force
Robbie Fruean fends off Kyle Godwin as the Crusaders went down to the Force in Perth.
Crusaders gallery
The Crusaders celebrate after scoring a try against the Highlanders.
Crusaders gallery
Luke Whitelock charges into the Highlanders defence.
Crusaders gallery
Israel Dagg tries to evade the tackle.
Crusaders gallery
Zac Guildford chases after the loose ball.
Crusaders gallery
Owen Franks of the Crusaders charges into Nic Stirzaker of the Rebels.
Crusaders gallery
Ben Funnell is taken in the tackle by the Rebels.
Crusaders gallery
Dan Carter made his return to action for the Crusaders against the Rebels.
Crusaders gallery
George Whitelock leads the Crusaders on to AMI Stadium for the game against the Rebels.
Crusaders gallery
Dan Carter is taken in the tackle.
Crusaders gallery
Ryan Crotty on the charge against the Brumbies.
Crusaders gallery
Sam Whitelock gets a pass away in the tackle.
Crusaders gallery
Robbie Fruean (left) and Joe Moody celebrate after the Crusaders win over the Brumbies in Canberra.
Crusaders 2013 gallery
Andy Ellis talks to the crowd after being presented with a mere in recognition of playing 100 games for the Crusaders.
Crusaders 2013 gallery
Dan Carter unleashes a kick for the Crusaders against the Blues.
Crusaders 2013 gallery
Sam Whitelock takes breather during the clash against the Blues.
Crusaders 2013 gallery
Crusaders fans show their support for the team in the clash against the Blues.
Crusaders 2013
Ben Funnell spins the ball wide against the Chiefs.
Crusaders 2013
Zac Guildford (centre) and the Crusaders lament their loss to the Chiefs.
Crusaders 2013
Andy Ellis surveys his options from the base of the scrum against the Crusaders.
Crusaders 2013
Tom Taylor attempts a shot at goal against the Chiefs.
Crusaders season 2013
Dominic Bird of the Crusaders attended to by the team doctor during his side's Round 16 clash with the Waratahs in Christchurch.
Crusaders season 2013
Zac Guildford of the Crusaders passes the ball back to Kieran Read under pressure from Waratah Kane Douglas.
Crusaders season 2013
Luke Romano wins a lineout for the Crusaders against the Waratahs.
Crusaders season 2013
Michael Hopper of the Waratahs makes a charge against the Crusaders at AMI Stadium.
Super Rugby Gallery
Willi Heinz of the Crusaders is tackled by Ben Smith of the Highlanders during the round 18 Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Crusaders.
Super Rugby Gallery
Tom Marshall of the Crusaders is dumped by Ma'a Nonu of the Highlanders during the round 18 Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Crusaders.
Super Rugby Gallery
Highlanders player Ben Smith jumping in the air for the ball with Crusaders Matt Todd & Dan Carter.
Super Rugby Gallery
Highlanders player Hosea Gear being tackled by Crusaders players Dan Carter (left) & George Whitelock.
Super Rugby Gallery
Sam Whitelock of the Crusaders is tackled by Kade Poki of the Highlanders during the round 18 Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Crusaders.
Crusaders vs Chiefs
Crusaders fullback Israel Dagg celebrates.
Crusaders vs Chiefs
Crusaders first five-eighth Dan Carter.
Crusaders vs Chiefs
Crusaders Kieran Read on his way to the try-line.
Crusaders vs Chiefs
Kieran Read runs out at AMI stadium.
Crusaders vs Chiefs
Crusaders fullback Israel Dagg takes off.
Crusaders vs Chiefs
Crusaders centre Ryan Crotty tries to escape Chiefs flanker Sam Cane.
Crusaders gallery 2013
Kieran Read leads the Crusaders on to AMI Stadium for their final regular season game against the Hurricanes.
Crusaders gallery 2013
Halfback Willi Heinz gets a kick away against the Hurricanes.
Crusaders gallery 2013
Brothers Ben (left) and Owen Franks catch up after going head to head for the Hurricanes and Crusaders.
Crusaders gallery 2013
Dan Carter gestures to an assistant referee during the game against the Hurricanes.
Crusaders vs Reds
Ryan Crotty dives over to score for the Crusaders.
Crusaders vs Reds
Dan Carter strolls over the line to score a try.
Crusaders vs Reds
Richie McCaw looks on from the Crusaders bench during his side's Super Rugby qualifier with the Reds.
Crusaders vs Reds
Sam Whitelock takes on the Reds defence.
Chiefs vs Crusaders
Liam Messam takes on the Crusaders defence.
Chiefs vs Crusaders
Lelia Masaga has a cut at the Crusaders defence.
Chiefs vs Crusaders
Asaeli Tikoirotuma is downed by Owen Franks.

Andy Ellis celebrated his 100th Super Rugby match in style as the Crusaders humbled the Blues 23-3.

When the popular halfback led his side on to AMI Stadium the stadium erupted with applause and 80 minutes later the cheers again bounced off the heavens as the Crusaders confirmed a victory that ensures they have now overtaken the Blues to hop to second place on the New Zealand conference table.

Ellis has never played in a Crusaders side that has lost to the Blues in Christchurch and as early as halftime it became evident that golden run, which stretches back to 2004, wouldn't be snapped.

Before the match began there was some drama when hooker Corey Flynn was injured in the warm-ups but much of the mayhem the Crusaders created only had a negative impact on the Blues.

Try-saving tackles - replacement fullback Israel Dagg and wing Zac Guildford unleashed a couple of gems in the second spell - superb tactical nous, a dominant scrum and a hard-nosed attitude with the ball in hand ensured the Crusaders are now sniffing for their eighth title.

The drizzle-induced slippery conditions encouraged the Crusaders to pouch the game-plan of slinging the ball wide as they instead utilised the left-right kicking combinations of Dan Carter and Tom Taylor.

Having the hard-running No 8 Kieran Read back after a two-month lay-off with a toe injury no doubt reinvigorated that desire to run straighter lines but it was his captaincy that proved so valuable as he commanded the pack with authority and made several bold calls.

The All Black's confidence to back his instincts was never more evident than around the 50-minute mark.

Rather than order Taylor to kick for goal, Read demanded several lineouts; inevitably - after the 14-man Blues had been warned for pulling down lineout drives - the sizzling Crusaders' pack made their opponents pay when tight-head prop Owen Franks burrowed over for the try to give his side a crucial 15-point buffer.

Some might argue it was a risky decision but coach Todd  Blackadder commended Read.

"When you are 13-3 up - that is a try away - and you just want to keep the pressure on,'' Blackadder said. "I thought it was a good decision to get a good lineout drive. These games are won and lost on gutsy calls.''

Blues skipper Ali Williams' transgression at a ruck, he couldn't resist using a big mitt to rake the ball back, gift-wrapped the Crusaders their opening points.

Taylor, having earlier missed an optimistic long-range shot, snapped over the penalty and after 22 minutes the Crusaders crept out to a 3-0 lead.

A couple of minutes later they added another seven points.

With the Crusaders rushing defensive line creating doubt in the Blues players' minds, first-five Chris Noakes finally paid the price when a clearing kick was charged down by Ryan Crotty and Taylor nailed the regulation conversion.

Noakes and Taylor traded penalties before both sides retreated to the sheds at the break but despite the paucity of points few of the 17,300 supporters - the first full-house of the season - would have felt they hadn't already got their money's worth.

Despite the Crusaders' early lineout jitters when Williams and Culum Retallick were able to nab a couple of steals, the home side set their mandate with their rugged defensive lines.

Locks Luke Romano and Sam Whitelock set the tone; Romano sailed close to the wind with a few shoulder shots - and was finally pinged for one too many - while Whitelock rammed into one ruck so hard it appeared Blues No 6 Steven Luatua's head would disengage and come rolling off the park.

Carter's defence was also outstanding, something that appealed to Blackadder when reminded of his deeds.

"He is just on fire. He has been leading the charge. There were some tackles from everyone but he, in particular, put everything on the line,'' he said.

Williams was a picture of frustration as he repeatedly challenged referee Glen Jackson's rulings and was in danger of losing his rag when Retallick was yellow carded in the final seconds of the first half.

With the Crusaders quickly recycling the ball down the left-hand side, Retallick nullified the move by batting down the Romano-bound pass.

Pleas for a penalty try were rightly ignored but Taylor didn't waste the shot to add the extra points. 

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Robbie Fruean
ROAD TO RECOVERY: Robbie Fruean has been recovering well at home since his open-heart surgery.

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