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The Blues' misfiring Super Rugby campaign almost died completely as the Crusaders monstered their way to a nine-try 59-12 win at Rugby League Park in Christchurch on Saturday.
Denied territory and possession, with a malfunctioning lineout and a struggling scrum, the Blues conceded five first-half tries and never looked remotely capable of fighting their way back into the game.
The Crusaders rebounded superbly from last week's 28-19 loss to the Rebels in Melbourne, showing excellent ball retention and patience. They cranked up the pressure with every phase, whether pounding the Blues line close in or moving the ball wide to the wings.
The early signs were ominous, flanker Matt Todd showing good strength to power across after five minutes, with winger Adam Whitelock repeating the dose in the 11th minute after the Crusaders spread the ball wide.
The home team then laid siege to the Blues line, launching wave after wave of relentless attack, time and again stretching the Blues' defensive line wide.
A foot in touch denied lock Sam Whitelock, lurking out wide, a try as the 20-minute mark neared, but captain Richie McCaw - in the unfamiliar No.8 jersey - bulldozed over barely a minute later for the Crusaders' third.
The end of the half couldn't come quickly enough for the Blues, but the Crusaders were brutally efficient right until the whistle, lock Luke Romano and hooker Corey Flynn crossing in the last four minutes to give the Crusaders a 31-0 lead at the break.
All Blacks pivot Dan Carter, back at first five-eighth, was a huge influence, kicking with confidence and accuracy as the Crusaders continued to score at will from the restart.
Ellis dotted down after three minutes with the simplest of tries from the base of the scrum, then Flynn picked up his second at the 50-minute mark.
The Blues regained a little dignity 10 minutes later, Lachie Munro crossing for his fifth try of the Super Rugby season as the Aucklanders finally managed to build a few phases and work from front-foot ball.The Crusaders resumed normal service with tries to Zac Guildford and Tom Marshall, while the Blues stole a consolation injury-time try to Munro.