The University of Canberra Brumbies have recorded their third loss of the 2014 Super Rugby season, falling 40-20 to the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday afternoon.
It had been 14 years since the UC Brumbies had claimed a win over the Cantabrians in New Zealand and from the outset the locals made it clear they weren’t interested in giving that record any leeway.
Saturday night was the first time a team has scored 40 points against the UC Brumbies since the final round of 2011 and the second time the Crusaders have managed to accumulate that many in their last three encounters against an ACT side.
A huge, 12-1 missed tackle count favoured the Crusaders at half time, despite the UC Brumbies holding the majority of possession and having forced three opposition players to the sidelines injured.
By fulltime the UC Brumbies had the greater share of possession and field position, but couldn’t manage to convert that into enough points.
UC Brumbies Captain Ben Mowen said he was disappointed with the result.
“We’re disappointed with some of the effort areas of tonight and how we put things together. We were off the pace and the Crusaders made us pay,” Mowen said.
“There were too many missed tackles and our set piece was continually under pressure which didn’t help. You’re not going to get a result against a side like the Crusaders unless you’re there for the entire game and that certainly wasn’t the case for us tonight.
“There were parts of the game where we were there and then other parts where we just turned off and they managed to really hurt us.”
Penalties played a major part in the game, Glen Jackson finding 14 infringements in the first half an hour handing Colin Slade and the Crusaders as easy 15 points to build from.
Nic White again added points for the UC Brumbies off the boot, but a try to Crusaders winger Johnny McNicholl after the halftime siren sunk the visitors to a 22-6 deficit heading to the sheds.
Coming out from the sheds full of steam the UC Brumbies clawed back 7 points thanks to Stephen Moore, who side stepped Israel Dagg to score right of the posts for Lealiifano to convert.
But the celebrations were again cut short by penalties, Slade landing his sixth and 20th points to move the Crusaders lead back to 12, 25-13.
Giant winger Nemani Nadolo added further pain off a charge down 2 minutes later, sprinting 35 metres to score in the corner pushing the Crusaders lead to 30-13 with 25 minutes to play.
Slade equalled Andrew Mehrten’s record of 23 points for this fixture with a seventh penalty minutes later, by which time the game was out of the UC Brumbies reach.
Despite throwing themselves into the Crusaders for the next 20 minutes the UC Brumbies were unable to crack the defensive line, but last passes and knock-ons cruelled the visitors who will need to regroup ahead of next Saturday’s clash with the Sharks.
Summing up the evening, the Crusaders stole the UC Brumbies line-out from just inside half way, trucking the ball down field for Sam Whitelock to score his side’s third try of the evening.
Pat McCabe, who was outstanding when he took the field during the second half, saved the UC Brumbies blushes with a try under the posts, but it meant little to the overall result as the UC Brumbies went down 40-20 in Christchurch.
Crusaders 40 (Johnny McNicholl, Nemani Nadolo, Sam Whitelock tries; Colin Slade con, pens 7) bt UC Brumbies 20 (Stephan Moore, Pat McCabe tries, Nic White pens 2, con; Lealiifano con) at Christchurch. Referee: Glen Jackson.
1. Scott Sio
2. Stephen Moore (replaced by Josh Mann-Rea)
3. Ben Alexander (replaced by Ruan Smith)
4. Scott Fardy
5. Sam Carter (replaced by Jack Whetton)
6. Jordan Smiler (replaced by Tom McVerry)
7. Jarrad Butler
8. Ben Mowen (C)
9. Nic White (replaced by Michael Dowsett)
10. Matt Toomua
11. Robbie Coleman
12. Christian Lealiifano
13. Tevita Kuridrani (replaced by Andrew Smith)
14. Joe Tomane
15. Jesse Mogg (replaced by Pat McCabe)
16. Josh Mann-Rea
17. Ruan Smith
18. Ruaidhri Murphy
19. Jack Whetton
20. Tom McVerry
21. Michael Dowsett
22. Andrew Smith
23. Pat McCabe