The men from Canberra produced one of their most intense 40-minute efforts in recent memory to lead 7-0 at the break on Saturday, playing with a physicality and accuracy that threw the defending champions off kilter.
It means their decade-long wait to beat the nine-time champions goes on. The Brumbies haven’t won in Christchurch for nearly 20 years.
The result was a relief for the competition leaders, who were playing their first game Christchurch since the tragic mosque attacks three weeks earlier.
It was their sixth win from seven games this season while the Brumbies slump to a 2-5 record, the worst of the four Australian sides.
Coach Dan M cKellar’s decision to rest three Wallabies forwards following a bye week didn’t have any negative impact on their exceptional early output.
Captain Christian Lealiifano darted over in the 32nd minute, capitalising on his team’s relentless tactic of keeping ball in hand and forcing mistakes from the ill-disciplined hosts.
The Crusaders conceded eight penalties to two by halftime and their Test prop Owen Franks was shown a yellow card in his 150th game for a no-arms tackle on Henry Speight.
Momentum swung on a big scrum from the home pack soon after the break and the tries followed.
Reece crossed once and Jordan twice in the third quarter as the Brumbies were forced into defence mode, struggling to shut down the crafty play-making of inside backs Richie Mo’unga and Ryan Crotty.
Lealiifano tr ied to squeeze the positives from the performance.
“A really impressive first half, we came out with the right intent,” he said.
“It was just a shame that we couldn’t continue that in the second half.
“They put us under a lot of pressure there in the second half and a quality side like that can hurt you from anywhere… but we’ll take plenty of confidence. There’s something to build on there.”
The Brumbies created the final try, when Pulu broke from distance to set up Tevita Kuridrani.
Crotty praised the Crusaders defence for not wilting when the Brumbies bossed the first spell.
“I don’t think we touched the ball for that second 20 minutes. It was awesome that we only let them in for seven,” he said.
“We talked about trust that momentum would come back our way. We just had to be good enough to execute when it did.”
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