Sport Union Marshall snubbed as Blues beat Crusaders

Marshall snubbed as Blues beat Crusaders

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Benji Marshall sat on the bench for the entire match as the Blues downed the Crusaders 35-24 in the Super Rugby clash in Auckland on Friday.

The much-hyped rugby league convert looked on as 20-year-old Blues five-eighth and debutant Simon Hickey steered the Auckland-based franchise to an impressive comeback victory with 15 points off the boot.

Hickey, a surprise choice at No.10, showed some nice touches and landed six of his seven shots at goal, including three penalties.

Blues coach John Kirwan axed five-eighth Chris Noakes following last week’s loss to the Highlanders and it was thought former NRL star Marshall would get a crack at No.10.

But Marshall was merely a spectator as the Blues produced a scoring blitz either side of halftime to secure a remarkable come-from-behind win.

The Crusaders appeared to be racing away with the game when they pulled out to a 17-3 lead midway through the opening spell.

But the Blues turned the match on its head with four tries in 13 minutes.

The result at Eden Park means the Crusaders have started the season with two straight defeats.

For the Blues, it was a spectacular way to end to a seven-game losing run going back to last May.

There was plenty of encouragement in the performance of their young brigade, with Hickey, lock Patrick Tuipulotu and winger Tevita Li all contributing.

The Blues made the early running but their repeated failure to secure their own line-out ball meant they couldn’t capitalise.

They then saw the opposition score from their first real incursion, hooker Corey Flynn displaying a winger’s skills to dot down in the corner.

While that try came off a counter-attack, it was traditional Crusaders’ patience that produced the second touchdown to fullback Colin Slade.

Seven minutes from halftime the Blues flicked the switch.

Firstly, a great turnover by lock Tom Donnelly was finished off by winger Frank Halai.

Then the Blues other lock, Tuipulotu, snared the kick-off and sent the other winger, 18-year-old Li, away to the tryline to close the gap to two points at the break.

A minute after the restart, the home side went ahead for the first time, when the Crusaders couldn’t clean up a Hickey kick-ahead and centre George Moala grabbed the loose ball to score.

Second five-eighth Jackson Willison put them further in front after he latched on to halfback Piri Weepu’s deft kick to the in-goal for the bonus-point try.

The Crusaders mounted a comeback and, with Blues flanker Steven Luatua binned for a breakdown offence, they got a late consolation try to second five Ryan Crotty.