BNZ Crusaders start 2017 season with a hard-fought win
- Created: 25 February 2017
Scoring three tries to one the BNZ Crusaders got their winning start to the Investec Super Rugby competition with a hard-fought 17-13 win over the Brumbies in Christchurch on Saturday.
Conscious of the need to make an overdue good start to a season, the BNZ Crusaders dominated the first half, although not able to find their way through some tight Brumbies defence as often as they would have liked. That was borne out during a 10-minute period when wing James Dargaville was ruled to have not looked out for Israel Dagg when he was challenging for a high ball and was sin-binned.
The BNZ Crusaders threw everything at the line, but apart from one instance, the line held during Dargaville's absence.
It was always a stage for Dagg to celebrate 100 games of Super Rugby, the 45th New Zealand player to achieve the mark and the 16th Crusader and he didn't disappoint with some trademark deft touches to keep the ball alive, once in a touch-beating effort and once, 32 minutes into the game when a back-of-the-hand pass provided No.8 Whetu Douglas with his first, and the Crusaders' second, try of the season.
Earlier, three minutes after the start, Dagg had featured several times in build-up play before his long pass to right wing saw Seta Tamanivalu cross for the opening try.
However, a half-time tune-up seemed to provide the Brumbies with some momentum and by holding onto the ball, with Dargaville prominent twice in the set-up, the chance was taken for lock Rory Arnold to cross, due reward for his mid-field line-break that created the opportunity.
Reducing the movement of the ball and looking to the strength of their forward pack, the Crusaders applied the pressure from lineouts close to the line and while the drive wasn't successful the scrum provided the opportunity and as a pushover attempt disintegrated it was flanker Pete Samu who scored.
Leading the Brumbies defensive effort was flanker Scott Fardy, who provided solidity in an area that could have been troublesome for the side. International centre Tevita Kuridrani was able to break the defence at times but scrambling Crusaders defence generally contained his opportunities. Dargaville also made the most of the few chances that came his way.
Former Blues halfback Bryn Hall marked his debut for the BNZ Crusaders with a busy night at the base of the ruck as the Crusaders attempted to make the most of quicker ball.
First five-eighths Richie Mo'unga provided some concern for home fans when missing a penalty goal chance from in front of the posts. Almost predictably a speculator kick downfield from the Brumbies scrambled the home defences and it was second five-eighths Ryan Crotty who finally tidied and allowed the clearance by another impressive performer on limited chances wing George Bridge.
Captain and lock Sam Whitelock said the side looked too excited and had pushed too many passes early on but they got the campaign off to a good start, their first winning start since 2012
Crusaders 17 (Seta Tamanivalu, Whetu Douglas tries; Richie Mo'unga con)
Brumbies 13 (Rory Arnold try; Wharenui Hawera con, 2 pen). HT: 12-3
Match report courtesy of www.superrugby.co.nz