Blues left struggling after hiding by Crusaders

The power of Nemani Nadolo has probably killed the Blues' Super Rugby title hopes after the Crusaders won a brutal encounter in Christchurch on Saturday night.

While the victory should guarantee the Crusaders a place in the play-offs, the Blues -who could not even salvage a losing bonus point - appear to have little hope of advancing into the finals and must rely on some wild mathematical permutations to see them through.

If Nadolo was the sledgehammer, the classy Dan Carter was the velvet glove as he unleashed all his skills at AMI Stadium and set-up the second - and crucial - try by unloading a magical pass for the massive Fijian winger with seven minutes left.

The Crusaders rushed Kieran Read, Israel Dagg, Owen Franks and Carter back for this encounter but it was left wing Nadolo, who scored both tries, who proved the star performer.

At times the only way to describe this battle, which was peppered with messy scrums and mystifying penalties by referee Glen Jackson, was brutal and the Blues will have been shattered to leave the South Island city not grabbing a win since 2004.

Both forward packs battled the other manfully, whether it be with their clean-outs or big tackles, and one of the most encouraging sights for all New Zealanders was that of Crusaders captain Read proving he is nearing his best following his concussion issues.

Read was replaced around the 60-minute mark but his trademark offloads out wide were valuable and he was not gun-shy in contact.

Losing Sam Whitelock to a calf muscle injury was a late setback for the home side, and coach Todd Blackadder kept the All Black lock's withdrawal secret until just before kick-off.

But Whitelock's replacement, Jimmy Tupou, produced a strong performance.

This story Blues left struggling after hiding by Crusaders first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.