Shock result: Crusaders left to rue costly errors with win over Rebels not enough for final guarantee
In a shock result, the Crusaders have failed to record the requisite winning margin needed over the Rebels to book themselves a guaranteed spot in the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final and are now reliant on the Blues dropping the ball against the Western Force.
The Super Rugby Aotearoa champions went into the game with a rather simple equation to ensure a place in the final: beat the Rebels by 33 points and secure a winning bonus point.
It looked for all money like they might come close to achieving that in the first half after they went 14 points up after just six minutes of action – but the Rebels were the itch that never went away, and managed to stay keep the margin down.
At halftime, the Crusaders held a 26-12 lead – with All Black Braydon Ennor dropping the ball with a clean run into the line ahead of him to close out the first stanza.
The tries kept coming for the Crusaders in the second half – but the Rebels kept coming too, with the two sides trading scores throughout the period and as the game entered the final 10 minutes, the Crusaders held a 19-point lead, three-try lead.
It was enough for the bonus point, but not to give them the margin they needed to jump ahead of the Highlanders on the overall ladder – they still needed two converted tries worth of points.
The first came via Ennor, who made up for his earlier error by marching under the point untouched off a bullet pass from replacement halfback Bryn Hall.
That looked to be it for the Crusaders, with the Rebels attacking for the better part of the rest of the match – camped inside the Crusaders’ 22. With just a minute to play, however, the visitors earned a penalty five metres out from their own line and kicked to the sidelines for one last lineout.
From the ensuing play, however, Leicester Fainga’anuku – who’d earned the penalty seconds later, was stripped of the ball and that was to be the Crusadser’ last attack.
The game finished 52-26 in the Crusadsers’ favour – but they’ll be left to rue the points left out on the field.
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