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Crusaders survive season-opening Hurricanes scare in Dunedin

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

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The Crusaders have survived an early-season fright from the Hurricanes to kick their 2022 Super Rugby Pacific campaign off with a 42-32 win at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.

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While the scoreline indicates a typically dominant performance from the Crusaders, it took a big effort from the serial title-winners to get past the underdog Wellingtonians, probably should have had the lead at half-time.

Despite an impressive opening spell from electric fullback Will Jordan and a rapid pair of tries to left wing Leicester Finga’anuku inside the opening quarter of an hour, the Hurricanes managed to keep in touch through the boot of Jordie Barrett.

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Picking the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific champions | Aotearoa Rugby Pod
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Picking the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific champions | Aotearoa Rugby Pod

That kept the Crusaders’ margin limited to only six points as the clock neared the half hour mark, and a cracking piece of counter-attacking play paved the way for young Hurricanes first-five Ruben Love to cross for his side’s first try to take an unlikely lead.

Love’s try came just moments after Barrett shanked an easy penalty shot at goal, which would have edged the Hurricanes into the lead at the break.

The same could also be said of the try-scoring efforts by Asafo Aumua and Ardie Savea, both of whom were denied five-pointers due to the desperate defence of the Crusaders, which boiled over when prop Oli Jager was sent to the sin bin.

Even with only 14 men on the field, though, the Crusaders managed to extend their lead when Fainga’anuku completed his hat-trick in the 51st minute, while Burke added a further eight points off the boot.

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Savea looked to have scored what would have been a momentum-killing try of his own around the hour mark after a storming run up the middle of the park.

However, that was dubiously rubbed out after the TMO ruled that replacement prop Ben May – who, at 39-years-old, became the oldest player in Super Rugby history – had knocked the ball on during a scrappy piece of play from a midfield lineout.

The Crusaders responded by launching back down the other end of the field and scoring what proved to be the decisive penalty try when Braydon Iose was yellow carded for collapsing a maul on his own tryline.

Burke followed Iose into the sin bin when he committed a cynical foul on Julian Savea, which the Hurricanes capitalised on by sending debutant and ex-Chiefs utility back Bailyn Sullivan over in the corner.

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That, and the follow-up tries by Barrett and replacement first-five Jackson Garden-Bachop, was too little too late, though, as the Crusaders added to their lead late in the piece through a rolling maul try to reserve hooker Shilo Klein.

The result lifts the Crusaders to second on the Super Rugby Pacific table ahead of next Saturday’s South Island derby with the Highlanders, while the Hurricanes sit in 11th spot leading into their clash with the Blues next Sunday.

Crusaders 42 (Tries to Leicester Finaga’anuku (3), Shilo Klein, penalty try; 2 conversions and 3 penalties to Fergus Burke, conversion to Simon Hickey)

Hurricanes 32 (Tries to Ruben Love, Bailyn Sullivan, Jordie Barrett and Jackson Garden-Bachop; 3 conversions and 2 penalties to Barrett)

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