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Blues rally from 17-3 down to beat Crusaders 35-24 in Super Rugby

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand - The Blues scored four tries in 13 minutes either side of halftime to come from 17-3 down and beat the Crusaders 35-24 in Super Rugby on Friday.

Wingers Frank Halai and Tevita Li, and centres George Moala and Jackson Willison scored tries from the 33rd to 46th minutes as the Auckland-based Blues bagged a bonus point and consigned the seven-time champion Crusaders to their second straight loss to start the season.

Halai and 18-year-old Li — making his Super Rugby debut — scored within two minutes of each other near the end of the first half as Auckland went to half time trailing 17-15.

Moala and Willison then sustained that momentum with tries in the first six minutes of the second half that gave the Blues their first lead.

Rookie flyhalf Simon Hickey, in his first Super Rugby match, kicked three conversions and three penalties — six goals from seven attempts — to widen the Blues' advantage and deny the Crusaders a bonus point.

"We got the shakes in the first 20 minutes but we managed to come back and score two good tries before halftime," Blues captain Luke Braid said.

The Crusaders had opened a 17-3 lead with tries to hooker Corey Flynn and fullback Colin Slade but those tries owed much to some sympathetic refereeing.

Li's try came from an intercept close to his goal-line, running the length of the field, but was referred to the video referee, as Crusaders players suggested Li may have been offside, but replays showed he began his run after the ball was cleared.

"You just can't take your foot off the throat when you've got a team 17-3 down," Crusaders captain Kieran Read said. "You help them if you give them opportunities which they took."

The Blues have a 1-1 record before they head to South Africa next week for matches against the Bulls and Lions. The Crusaders find themselves in an early hole in the hard-fought New Zealand conference.

They closed with a try to centre Ryan Crotty, their third of the match, but couldn't draw within the seven points necessary for a consolation bonus point.

___

Blues 35 (Frank Halai, Tevita Li, George Moala, Jackson Willison tries; Simon Hickey 3 conversions, 3 penalties), Crusaders 24 (Corey Flynn, Colin Slade, Ryan Crotty tries; Tom Taylor 3 conversions, penalty). HT: 15-17.

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