Pablo Matera was one of the Crusaders’ best in the 37-26 win over the Brumbies in Canberra.
At GIO Stadium, Canberra: Crusaders 37 (Codie Taylor tries 8min, Sevu Reece tries 14min, Bryn Hall 56min, Will Jordan tries 65min; Richie Mo’unga 4 con, Mo’unga 3 pen)
Brumbies 26 (Irae Simone tries 4min, 47min, Folau Fainga’a 60min, Tom Wright 72min; Nic White con, Ryan Lonergan 2 con) ME: 23-5.
No one can say that the Crusaders are generous.
Not when trans-Tasman pride, competition points and bragging rights were at stake, as they were before they entered Canberra’s GIO Stadium to beat the Brumbies 37-26 on Friday night .
That encounter at GIO Stadium was billed as a collision of the Super Rugby Pacific giants, fair publicity given that the Brumbies had beaten the Chiefs, Hurricanes and Highlanders in previous weeks but the Crusaders weren’t d in the mood to become their fourth New Zealand victim in several weeks.
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It was almost as if coach Scott Robertson asked his Crusaders players to invite the Brumbies to take a look at the inner workings of the machine and when they did, they didn’t. could bear to watch the howling, creaking cogs throbbing under the bonnet.
The Crusaders didn’t start well, conceding an early try to Brumbies midfielder Irae Simone in the fourth minute, but it just looked pissed off then; Codie Taylor and Sevu Reece scored first-half tries, with Richie Mo’unga hitting conversions and three penalties in the first spell to earn 1,000 Super Rugby points.
Leading 23-5 at the break, the Crusaders trotted to the sheds knowing they could win this if they continued to use the tool that scares all their opponents when they make a successful run: physicality.
The beauty of this Crusader effort was how their attackers did their best to mimic the low-flying gliders just before they crashed into the rucks.
Low, fast and seemingly without any concern for their own health and safety, the Kiwis’ body position was excellent as they fought their way through the Aussies.
That, combined with the quick defensive line, rattled the Brumbies who failed to press through the phases due to unforced errors and an inability to handle the Crusaders’ heavy strategy.
You have to give the Brumbies their due though.
A fight back in the final minutes must have given Robertson a scare in the coach’s penalty area, especially when Brumbies winger Tom Wright scored a try.
The Crusaders, however, simply dug in their heels and fought back like hell, and in the event, denied the home side a valuable losing bonus point.
How important will it be, come the playoffs? Don’t be surprised if we see these two teams meet in the semi-finals.
The big moment
The Crusaders scored an unanswered 23 points in the first half after conceding Simone’s first try. The visitors led 23-5 at half-time and although Simone scored soon after the break, the Brumbies, through their failure to deal with the pressure – internal and external – failed as the minutes went by.
Ranking of matches
Not quite the close encounter many had predicted – or hoped for – but fair play for the Crusaders, who were too effective against a Brumbies side reportedly disappointed by their high error rate.
The big picture
The Crusaders, who hadn’t lost to the Brumbies since 2009, remain third on the competition log with 43 points. The Brumbies (43) are still above them, in second place in points differential. The Blues remain in the lead, at 45.
Pablo Matera may have been lucky not to get a rough tackle early in the second half, but no one could question his determination or his commitment.