A strong second half from the Crusaders has seen the Plus500 Brumbies fall to a 36-14 defeat against in New Zealand, the home side running in six tries in the second stanza to remain at the front of the competition after Round 8.
Both teams set out with a commitment to entertain and showing good intent, running the ball at every opportunity, much to the delight of the crowd in what was almost perfect conditions at Christchurch Stadium.
The tempo was high and the tackling fierce inside the first twenty-five minutes with neither side giving an inch and nothing to separate the teams, the closest anyone coming when Murray Douglas unfortunately lost the ball in contact close to the line, the TMO judging a knock-on.
There was a chance for the Brumbies to stamp their authority on the half-hour when home prop Owen Franks, on the occasion of his 150th Super Rugby cap, received a yellow card for a no-arm tackle on Henry Speight, giving the Brumbies a numerical advantage for ten minutes.
It was an advantage that the Brumbies made pay claiming the first points of the match following concerted pressure on the Crusaders line.
Eventually, after a series of penalties, Joe Powell fed Christian Lealiifano who stepped off the left and then the right to finally crack the Crusaders line, dancing over for a try close to the uprights which the flyhalf himself converted.
It was a narrow and precarious lead, and one that lasted for four minutes of the second half before Crusaders winger Sevu Reece found space off a pass from Ryan Crotty to scoot through for a try. Richie Mo’unga made no mistake with the extras to tie the scores at 7-7.
The momentum swung to the competition leaders in the 55th minute when they won a penalty from a scrum, electing to take another set-piece and spreading the ball wide where Will Jordan scored in the corner, being caught high by Toni Pulu in the process, the winger given a yellow card for a high tackle.
Minutes later, Mo’unga broke through and sprinted away, being caught from behind by Banks before the recycled possession found Jordan lurking again for his second try of the afternoon. Mo’unga added the conversion and the lead moved to 19-7.
The Brumbies task became all the harder as referee Jaco Peyper, in charge for his 100th Super Rugby game, sent a second Brumby to the bin as Sam Carter saw yellow for a high tackle on Crotty. That left gaps on the field and the Crusaders know how to take advantage, Crotty sending replacement Jordan Taufua over with Mo’unga kicking the conversion.
Seconds later, Reece intercepted a wayward pass to stroll over for a fourth Crusaders try to confirm a home win as Brett Cameron bisected the uprights from out wide.
There was still time for a stunning finish from the visitors as Pulu broke the defensive line, screeching up the park to find Tevita Kuridrani in support who had a free run unchecked under the posts for a consolation score.
Crusaders (0) 36 (T: Reece (2), Jordan (2), Taufua, C: Mo’unga (3), Cameron, P: Cameron)
Plus500 Brumbies (7) 14 (T: Lealiifano, Kuridrani, C: Lealiifano (2))
1. James SLIPPER (17. Vunipola FIFITA 72’), 2. Josh MANN-REA (16. Connal MCINERNEY 56’), 3. Allan ALAALATOA (18. Tom ROSS 72’), 4. Darcy SWAIN, 5. Murray DOUGLAS (19. Sam CARTER 9’-20’, 56’), 6. Pete SAMU (20. Jahrome BROWN 60’), 7. Tom CUSACK, 8. Lachlan MCCAFFREY, 9. Joe POWELL (19. Matt LUCAS 56’), 10. Christian LEALIIFANO, 11. Toni PULU, 12. Irae SIMONE, 13. Tevita KURIDRANI, 14. Henry SPEIGHT (23. Andy MUIRHEAD 67’), 15. Tom BANKS (22. Jordan JACKSON-HOPE 67’) DISCIPLINE: Yellow Card: 11. Toni PULU, 19. Sam CARTER
Referee: Jaco PEYPER