The Crusaders have beaten the Melbourne Rebels in a gritty Round 9 clash at AAMI Park.
The visitors were down 12 points at half time after an action-packed first half, but surged back to victory in the second 40 to take third spot on the Super Rugby Pacific table.
It took until the 12th minute for there to be points on the board for either side. Macca Springer collected a looping Braydon Ennor pass off the back of some smart work from David Havili in front of the uprights. Springer dodged a defender to touch down for his first Crusaders try. Converted by Richie Mo’unga to make it 0-7.
Rebels bit straight back minutes later through Captain Brad Wilkin to make it 7-7, adding quickly with a run-away try from Vaiolini Ekuasi, expertly converted by Reece Hodge to make it 14-7.
The Crusaders engaged in grinding work up the field before some line breaks really gained the metres. A chop through centre from Fergus Burke collected and ended up with David Havili. A missed conversion made it 14-12.
Ryan Louwrens made it over for the Rebels to extend their lead 19-12. Converted quickly with a penalty soon after made it 24-12.
A chance on halfway from a strong scrum from both sides didn’t eventuate for the boys and they headed for the sheds with the hosts 12 points up.
Some big play from the Rebels in the opening 10 of the second kept the lead alive before momentum shifted back to the visitors at the 50 minute mark. Springer collected the last pass of a great carry across field to touch down but the try was overturned after a TMO review of a knock on.
Havili put the cherry on top of some very strong work from the Crusaders forwards. 24-17 became 24-19 after a Mo’unga conversion.
Shortly after, Willi Heinz was unlucky to not make it across the line at the end of some quality team play, stopped by big Rebels defence.
The heralded return of Cullen Grace happened at the 56th and six minutes later the big lad evened the score. A Mo’unga conversion gives the Crusaders back the lead. 24-26
Ioane Moananu on at 65
Rebels re-took the lead in the 68th from a Hodge penalty making it 27-26.
Late call up Ioane Moananu took the field in the 65th and quickly made an impact. In a try guaranteed to make the season highlights, he charged across the line in a huge show of strength, beating three defenders to get there. Mo’unga scored the extras and added with a penalty minutes later to make it 27-36 heading into the final minutes.
The hooter sounded and the time turned red before Dallas McLeod crashes over for a bonus point try in the 82nd. A beautiful direction change off the back of the ruck from Mo’unga got the ball to an unmarked McLeod on the wing. Converted by the playmaker to give us a final scoreline of 27-43.
The win extends the Crusaders win streak at AAMI Park to five, there is now no Super Rugby coach who has won more matches than Scott Robertson, and no player who has kicked more conversions than Richie Mo’unga.
Topped with first points from Springer and a standout performance from Moananu, the team will fly back to Christchurch with questions to be answered on the training ground this week ahead of a huge clash with the Chiefs in Hamilton next week.
Tackles made: Crusaders (112), Rebels (200)
Tackles missed: Crusaders (19), Rebels (39)
Possession: Crusaders (59%), Rebels (41%)
Territory: Crusaders (65%), Rebels (35%)