The Crusaders returned home in Round 5 of the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific competition to face the Brumbies at Orangetheory Stadium.
Undefeated and topping the competiton’s Australian teams, the Brumbies were set to test the home side who hadn’t played in front of their own fans since Round 1.
But the boys in red and black were not to be swayed. They were 21-3 up at half time, and took out the contest with a bonus point, the big screen beaming the 35-17 final score across a fan-filled field after the final whistle blew.
The night welcomed two debutants for the Crusaders – Will Gualter and Jamie Hannah – testament to the franchise’s depth at a time when the injury count didn’t make for happy reading for coaches and fans alike.
The Brumbies briefly held the lead after three minutes with a penalty, but the boys quickly turned the tide with a red-hot converted try from Leicester Fainga’anuku off the back of some top-notch carries deep in the Brumbies half. 7-3 Crusaders after seven minutes.
Pressure continued from the defending champs as they continued to push into the Brumbies territory. An overthrown line out in the 17th minute landed for Dom Gardiner who found Fergus Burke and in turn Pepesana Patafilo, in his first start for the club following his debut against the Blues in Round 4. A well-placed punt forward found Braydon Ennor rolled over a defender to the line. 14-3 after Richie Mo’unga’s second conversion for the night.
Christian Lio-Willie came on for Ethan Blackadder around the 35th, a calf strain reason enough for the All Black to exit the field.
Icing on the first half cake was found after the timer turned red, Codie Taylor finding the try line after a strong set piece. Mo’unga converted to bring up an 18 point lead before both sides retreated to the sheds for oranges. 21-3 at half time.
Back on the field after 15 and the Brumbies hit back within 10 minutes through a self-converted try to Ryan Lonergan. The Crusaders lead falls to 11. 21-10
A big moment in the 51st minute with Will Gualter making his debut, with Declan Meredith also debuting for the Brumbies in the same substituion.
The Fainga’anuku show continued in the 58th as he reflected his first-half try, charging the lefthand edge for a converted try. 28-10
The debutants continued for the Crusaders in the 65th, as Jamie Hannah took the field to become the latest Crusader. Both he and Gualter had respective gathered friends and family in the crowd, adding to the sense of occasion.
Corey Toole closed the gap for the Brumbies in the 70th with a rapid sprint down the left wing, converted by Lonergan to bring up 28-17.
Chritian Lio-Willie crashed over in the 78th after some handy hands from Willi Heinz, bringing up his first try for the franchise since signing on this season. Converted by Mo’unga to make a final scoreline of 35-17.
A bonus point win through some gritty work from the home team. While tested at times they looked in control. The team would tell you there was some frustration at not converting some extras, but the bulging crowd at Orangetheory left with smiles, boosted by the standing ovation given to Scott Razor Robertson when he entered the arena early doors.
As of Sunday morning the Crusaders sit 4th on the table with three wins from five. They face the Reds at Suncorp Stadium on Friday 31 March.
Our next home game against Moana Pasifika is on sale, get your tickets here.