It was a fast start for the Crusaders at Leichhardt Oval, as they opened their game against the Rebels with two tries in the first five minutes, Mitch Drummond and Will Jordan both getting across the line and Richie Mo’unga adding the extras.
Within 10 minutes, the home side joined the scoreboard. A shorter lineout from the Rebels and an inside drive from Trevor Hosea got them their first try, converted by Carter Gordon.
Almost 20 minutes in, the Crusaders put together an awesome team try, as great support and quick hands got Leicester Fainga’anuku across the line. The Crusaders’ tries came in pairs, returning to the scoreboard two minutes later with a beautiful long ball to Sevu Reece on the wing. The conversion from Mo’unga pushed the visitors’ lead out to 7-26.
Called for a deliberate knock on 26 minutes in, Will Jordan got sent to the bin and the Rebels tried to take advantage; they had the Crusaders scrambling but the ball was lost before grounding. Soon making up for it, Joe Powell punished the Crusaders for their shortened line of defence, finding a gap for another five points. This put the score at 12-26 leading in to halftime and gave the visitors plenty to think about at the break.
The Rebels returned from the sheds with strong defence, charging down two kicks and pulling off a brilliant try-saving tackle - Andrew Kellaway forcing Will Jordan in to touch as he grounded the ball on the right wing.
However, the Crusaders got back on track when Sevu Reece went over for his second try of the match after 46 minutes.
The Rebels continued to attack, playing under penalty advantage. Great support and recycling of the ball got Glen Vaihu his first try in Super Rugby.
This marked the start of an action packed ten minutes, in which Sevu Reece landed a hat-trick, Frank Lomani added another five points for the Rebels and Oli Jager joining the scoring frenzy.
A yellow card was shown to Steven Cummins with just under ten minutes left on the clock. A Rebels’ lineout was picked off by the Crusaders, and a beautiful ball by Bryn Hall sent Braydon Ennor across the line.
It was a dramatic final few minutes with the Crusaders chasing a 33-point win over the Rebels to secure a spot in the Final, but in the end they landed seven points short, the final score of 26-52 meaning they will rely on the result of the Blues versus Western Force game.
Crusaders 52 (Mitchell Drummond, Will Jordan, Leicester Fainga'anuku, Sevu Reece 3, Oli Jager, Braydon Ennor tries; Richie Mo'unga 6 con) Rebels 26 (Trevor Hosea, Joe Powell, Glen Vaihu, Frank Lomani tries; Carter Gordon 3 con). HT: 26-12