Crusaders edge Brumbies in thriller
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Crusaders got their campaign off to a winning start with a narrow 17-13 victory over the Brumbies in Christchurch as they were made to work hard throughout the encounter.
The Crusaders started strongly, with their forwards rolling over a struggling Brumbies eight and a long-cut out pass by Israel Dagg putting new recruit Seta Tamanivalu in for a try inside the first four minutes.
But although they continued to dominate for most of the game, the points did not come they ended up struggling to hold out a late surge by the Australians.
The Crusaders led 12-3 at half-time with Dagg, celebrating his 100th match, beating his man to set up their second try by back row forward Whetu Douglas. But the home side went off the boil in the second half as Scott Fardy led a series of Brumbies raids deep into Crusaders territory.
A Rory Arnold try - converted by Wharenui Hawera - who also kicked a first half penalty, closed the gap to two points three minutes into the second half.
The home side replied with a pushover try to Pete Samu before Hawera added his second penalty to set a four-point margin which neither side was able to change in the final 15 minutes.
Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock had to think long and hard to find positives in the encounter but if there was one bright spot for the most successful side in the history of the competition, it was that they finished with a win when they have a history of being slow starters to the season.
"It's great. We've started the season on the right foot rather than playing catch up next week. We were pretty excited and probably pushed the pass a bit too much. But we looked really good when we held on to it and made good decisions."
Brumbies leader Sam Carter said a pre-season focus on defence paid off for his side.
"It's [defence] something we pride ourselves on and we've been training hard over the last three months. We hung in there for 80 minutes but just couldn't get over the line. There's only one way to go from here," Carter said.
Man of the match: Allan Alaalatoa gave a good account himself while the Brumbies' Rory Arnold was a workhorse and Scott Fardy worked tirelessly on defence. Tevita Kuridrani proved a handful with some powerful attacking runs. Ryan Crotty made a good start to his campaign and George Bridge needs a mention for the work he put in. There can only be one player who stood out and that is Israel Dagg. The fullback ran the show from the back but it was his decision making that made the difference. He found the balance between running and kicking but when he ran it, he got over the gain line and more.
Tries: Tamanivalu, Douglas, Samu
Pens: Hawera 2
Yellow card: James Dargaville (Brumbies; foul play - taking the man out in the air; 24)
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Whetu Douglas, 7 Peter Samu, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Jed Brown, 21 Ereatari Enari, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 David Havili.
Brumbies: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 James Dargaville, 10 Wharenui Hawera, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Jordan Smiler, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Nic Mayhew.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Ben Alexander, 18 Leslie Leulua'Iali'I-Makin, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Lolo Fakaosilea, 21 Dewet Roos, 22 Andrew Smith, 23 Isaac Thompson.
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand), Angus Mabey (New Zealand)
TMO: Glen Newman (New Zealand)