The Crusaders got their Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign off to a perfect start with a 39-25 win over the Hurricanes in Wellington on Sunday.
The visitors outscored their opponents by five tries to one for a bonus-point, but it was ill-discipline which kept the home side in it for most of the game.
However, it was a mistake by South African wing Kobus van Wyk which proved to be really costly for the Hurricanes.
With just over 10 minutes left in the game and with the scores locked at 25-25, Van Wyk carelessly gifted the ball to the Crusaders near his own tryline with a dangerous pass, which resulted in a try.
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That score crushed the Hurricanes’ spirits just when it looked like they were getting the better of the opponents.
It was the Hurricanes second defeat in a row in the new tournament after their loss to the Blues in Round One.
It was a sensational start to the game from the Crusaders who launched an attack after the kick-off and after some great handling and interplay out wide it was wing Sevu Reece who ran in for the first try of the game.
Richie Mo’unga converted a difficult kick to add the extra two points for a 7-0 lead.
The Hurricanes managed to reduce the deficit to four points in the seventh minute after flyhalf Jackson Garden-Bachop converted a penalty into three points.
However, the Crusaders showed their superiority with ball in hand and after some sustained pressure in the Hurricanes 22, Braydon Ennor chased down the ball after a neat grubber from Bryn Hall to score a fantastic try in the 14th minute.
Mo’unga could not convert the score this time.
The Hurricanes stayed in touch with a penalty from Garden-Bachop in the 18th minute before he added another in the 28th minute to narrow the gap to just three points.
The home team then found themselves level on the scoreboard after a perfect drop goal from Garden-Bachop in the 31st minute.
However, the Hurricanes could not even catch their breath after that as they failed to secure possession after the restart and the ball eventually found its way to Crusaders centre Jack Goodhue who ran in for his team’s third try. Mo’unga was successful with the conversion.
The Hurricanes could not find their way to the Crusaders tryline, but they kept their score ticking over with Garden-Bachop, who added another three points in the 36th minute.
Mo’unga had the opportunity to restore the Crusaders’ seven-point lead with a penalty before the break, but he pushed his kick wide.
At half-time it was 19-15 to the Crusaders.
The Crusaders received a big blow in the first few minutes of the second half when Goodhue was yellow-carded for repeated infringements. The visitors lead was also reduced to one point after Garden-Bachop converted the penalty to three points.
Mo’unga restored the four-point lead with a penalty of his own in the 50th minute. He added another eight minutes later to give his team some breathing space heading into the final quarter.
The Hurricanes needed to be the next to score and they did when replacement hooker Asafo Aumua powered his way over the tryline in the 63rd minute after a brilliant offload from Ngani Laumape. Garden-Bachop added the extra two points from a difficult position and the scores were level at 25-25 with 15 minutes remaining.
It was then a moment of madness from replacement wing Van Wyk who allowed the Crusaders to get back in front.
The South African wing was caught with the ball near his own tryline and in an attempt to keep the ball alive near the touchline, he recklessly threw the ball infield with Mitch Drummond gathering, who then fed Mo’unga for the try.
The game was then taken away from the Hurricanes in the 75th minute when Crusaders replacement David Havili was put into space with a neat pass to run in for a try. Mo’unga converted again for a 14-point lead.
Man of the match: Crusaders hooker Codie Taylor was sensational with ball in hand in open play and he deserves the award.
Pens: Garden-Bachop 5
Tries: Reece, Ennor, Goodhue, Mo’unga, Havili
Cons: Mo’unga 4
Pens: Mo’unga 2
Yellow card: Jack Goodhue (Crusaders, 44 – repeated infringements, offside)
Hurricanes: 15 Chase Tiatia, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 TJ Perenara (co-captain), 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Vaea Fifita, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Dane Coles (co-captain), 1 Fraser Armstrong.
Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Ben May, 18 Alex Fidow, 19 Scott Scrafton, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Billy Proctor, 23 Kobus Van Wyk.
Crusaders: 15 Will Jordan, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Cullen Grace, 5 Mitchell Dunshea, 4 Samuel Whitelock, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor (captain), 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Brodie McAlister, 17 George Bower, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Ethan Blackadder, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 David Havili, 23 Leicester Faingaanuku.
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant referees: James Doleman, Ben O’Keeffe
TMO: Mike Fraser