Crusaders defeat Brumbies in mighty battle in Canberra

The Crusaders have won the biggest heavyweight battle of the season in Super Rugby Pacific yet, but it wasn’t easy against the Brumbies in a GIO Stadium thriller.

While the Crusaders went superbly to a 23-5 lead at halftime, the Brumbies showed their championship credentials with a vigorous fight back in the second half to fall just 11 points short when the visitors went on to win 37-26 on Friday night.

The win moved the Crusaders to second on the ladder, ahead of the Brumbies, who suffered only their second loss of the season.

Just as the hosts appeared to be falling apart, a ball pass from scrum half Nic White struck Irae Simone and enabled the center to take charge for his second try, although the Crusaders retaliated shortly after when halfback Bryn Hall came in from a pick – en-drive for 30-12.

The Brumbies just didn’t want to die, with replacement hooker Folau Fainga’a diving in at close range for 30-19, but the back and forth scoring continued as Crusaders fullback Will Jordan took advantage of his side’s elite recycling to to score the corner for 37-19.

And again while seemingly running out of life, the Brumbies struck when winger Tom Wright grabbed a Jordan pass and ran more than half the field to narrow the margin to 11 points.

The hosts rocketed again with a line break from Tom Banks and pounded on the door in the final five minutes, but were unable to eat the Crusaders’ advantage.

The loss ends the Brumbies’ perfect start to the league against the New Zealand teams, now 3-1 for that part of their season, while also dropping them to third on the table with two games to go for the playoffs.

They had dealt the first blow within four minutes, a spinning Simone putting the ball on the ground on an early penalty, but the Crusaders immediately hit back with attempts for hooker Codie Taylor and winger Sevu Reece, with three Richie Mo’unga penalties who made a 23-. 5 rest lead.

Two thirds of the first half was spent in Brumbis territory and they may have been lucky enough to be just 18 points behind at half time, but they certainly matched their strong opponents in the second term.

As professional as things are during the first 11 games of the season, the Brumbies would commit unusual mistakes, such as Simone landing a kick return without pressure and a lineout pitch that went over the head of Tom Hooper.

The Kiwis have largely succeeded in nullifying the Brumbies’ powerful maul, which has shredded most of the packs in the competition.

The Brumbies will face another tough test next Saturday when the up-and-coming Blues head to Canberra.

By Alex Mitchell in Canberra

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