Just as a couple of lubricated Highlanders fans began to crow, Will Jordan provided the perfect gobstopper.

Fullback Jordan scored the match-winning try for the Crusaders in the 78th minute of the trial match in Southbridge on Friday evening, ensuring his side left the field as 43-38 victors.

Around 4500 spectators turned-up to observe the two Super Rugby sides sweat it out in bright sunshine at the tiny Canterbury rugby club that once had former All Blacks great Dan Carter registered on its books.

Until Jordan, having galloped into the slipstream of rampaging loose forward Jordan Taufua, scored his try in the dying minutes it seemed as if the Highlanders were going to retain possession of the Farmlands Cup.

190208CrusadersvHighlanders 17

BNZ Crusaders fullback, Will Jordan, scores the match winning try at the Southbridge Rugby Club.  Photo credit:  Photosport.

So you couldn't blame a couple of Highlanders supporters from tipping their heads back and celebrating what appeared to be a certain triumph; until the Crusaders, a side which has perfected the knack of winning games at the death since Scott Robertson took over as coach two years ago, issued them with a metaphorical backhander.

It's nice to win a trophy, but the Crusaders will be realistic - as will the vanquished Highlanders. With such encounters it pays to be grateful you didn't suffer any serious injuries and then work back from there.

Neither side employed their frontline All Blacks, with the majority expected to be available for the opening round of the competition next week.

Although the Crusaders will not field captain Sam Whitelock Kieran Read or Codie Taylor, they will have a raft of top test players back for what promises to be an intriguing encounter against the Blues in Auckland.

Ditto for the Highlanders, who are slated to meet the Chiefs in Hamilton and were unable to pack their backline with stars such as Ben Smith, Aaron Smith and Waisake Naholo.

There's no point being picky when watching pre-season games. As long as the participants are willing that's what counts most. When awarded handy penalties, neither side contemplated kicking the easy three points and both of their game plans were simple affairs. Let's not try to be too cute at this time of the year.

The Crusaders led 14-7 at halftime, following tries to Tim Bateman and Taufua. Tom Sanders, who grabbed a double, extended the gap on the scoreboard after the break.

Trailing by 12 points the Highlanders counter-punched with two tries to midfielder Sio Tomkinson, who displayed some nifty footwork on several occasions to jink over the gainline.

When a flying Josh McKay, a familiar face in Canterbury but earning his coin in Dunedin these days, applied the turbo booster to sprint down the right touchline with less than 10 minutes remaining the Highlanders had reason to feel confident.

Up seven points, what could go wrong? When Mitchell Dunshea drove over to score a few minutes later - the conversion was missed - it still appeared the visitors had bagged a positive result.

Then it was left for Jordan to have the final say. Southbridge had got its money's worth.

Crusaders 43 (Tom Sanders 2, Tim Bateman, Jordan Taufua, Manasa Mataele, Mitchell Dunshea, Will Jordan tries; Mitchell Hunt 2, David Havili, Fergus Burke con) Highlanders 38 (Sio Tomkinson 2, Liam Coltman, James Lentjes, Folau Fakatava, Josh McKay tries; Josh Ioane 3, Bryn Gatland con). HT: 24-12

Thanks to stuff.co.nz for the match report