Winning start for Crusaders
Bleyendaal lands 14 points to inspire seven-time champions
Last Updated: 24/02/12 8:53am
Ryan Crotty on the charge for the Crusaders
Young fly-half Tyler Bleyendaal and powerful centre Robbie Freuan combined to see the Crusaders to a 19-18 win over the Blues in Auckland.
In a thrilling opening to the new Super League season, Freuan topped an all-action display with a try while former New Zealand Under-20s skipper held his nerve to land 14 points with the boot.
It sealed a superb fightback for the seven-time champions after tries from David Raikuna and Michael Hobbs had seen them trail 12-3 after nine minutes.
However the Blues couldn't cross the whitewash again - with Michael Hobbs only able to add two secind-half penalties to his earlier conversion.
Lowrey had opened the scoring in the fifth minute for the Blues, profiting after Israel Dagg has his kick charged down. Hobbs converted.
The Crusaders responded immediately, though, as the 21-year-old Bleyendaal, starting a Super match for the first time, slotted over a penalty.
Undeterred, the Blues ploughed forward and after an initial break from the hugely-impressive Rene Ranger, Raikuna crossed.
At 12-3 down with less than 10 minutes on the clock the visitors, who lost in the final to the Reds last season, must have feared the worst.
However they regrouped brilliantly and started putting the phases together.
Bleyendaal cut the deficit with a penalty before his conversion of Freuan's try put them in front
And another successful three-pointer saw the Crusaders reach the break 16-12 ahead.
The Blues responded well in the second half - with two penalties from Hobbs handing them a two-point advantage.
But Bleyendaal kept his cool to land his fourth penalty of the day to see the Crusaders retake the lead.
The Blues had a chance late on to win it, but Piri Weepu's drop-goal attempt in the final minute was charged down.
"We were pretty lucky to get away with it," Crusaders captain Kieran Read said. "There was real intensity out there and for a first hit out, it was really outstanding.
"We managed to put a bit of pressure down their end of the field which got us a few penalties and that's great."