Crusaders 31-29 Brumbies, Orangetheory Stadium
Noah Lolesio missed the decisive conversion at the end as Crusaders edged out Brumbies 31-29 in their opening encounter of Super Rugby Trans Tasman at Orangetheory Stadium.
The home side started the proceedings with a fifth minute try as Ethan Blackadder dotted down in the corner but Richie Mo'unga missed out on the conversion. The response frim Brumbies came in the 27th minute when they won a penalty and from the resulting passage of play Scott Sio dived from close range.
Lolesio kicked the conversion to put the Australian side into the lead but it was short-lived as Crusaders had a strong finish to the opening half. First it was Mo'unga, who set up a brilliant individual try as he breached the defence of the visitors to touchdown and he also followed with the extras. In the 36th minute, David Havili snatched a pass from Ryan Lonergan to crossover as the teams went into the break with a 19-7 lead.
Brumbies were the quickest to get off the block in the second half when Irae Simone picked the ball up from the back of the ruck to score in the 51st minute making it 19-14. Lolesio with the first penalty of the game in the 59th minute narrowed the gap down to two points but the New Zealand side dominated the start of the final quarter with further tries from Brendon O'Connor and Cullen Grace in the 63rd and 69th minutes respectively making it 31-17.
Brumbies though made a strong comeback in the final 10 minutes as Tom Banks, who showed an individual brilliance to score after breaching the defence of Crusaders and Lolesio's conversion made it 31-24. With two minutes left in the game, Brumbies were given another opportunity with Crusaders' Ereatara Enari sin-binned for repeated infringements and the Australian side made use of the numerical advantage with Rob Valetini scoring after collecting a looping pass. Just when they had a chance to draw the game, Lolesio's conversion sailed wide allowing Crusaders to get off to a winning start.
Team line up:
Crusaders: 15 George Bridge, 14 Manasa Mataele, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 David Havili, 11 Leicester Fainga'anuku, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Tom Sanders, 6 Ethan Blackadder, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Mitchell Dunshea, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 George Bower.
Reserves: 16 Brodie McAlister, 17 Tamaiti Williams, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Brendon O'Connor, 21 Ereatara Enari, 22 Fergus Burke, 23 Sevu Reece.
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Solomone Kata, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Tom Wright, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Ryan Lonergan, 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Rory Scott, 6 Henry Stowers, 5 Nick Frost, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga'a, 1 Scott Sio.
Reserves: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Harry Lloyd, 18 Tom Ross, 19 Tom Hooper, 20 Luke Reimer, 21 Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, 22 Reesjan Pasitoa, 23 Mack Hansen.