Rugby League

Defending champions suffer another loss in Super Rugby Pacific

March 15, 2024 9:35 pm

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For the first time in their illustrious history, the Crusaders have slumped to four straight defeats to open their tail-spinning season.

The Hurricanes maintained their unbeaten start to their pace-setting campaign to steal their first win in Christchurch in 14 years – and compound a mounting sense of desperation for the Crusaders after their losses to the Chiefs, Waratahs and Fijian Drua.

The Crusaders have been ravaged by significant injuries, inspirational captain Scott Barrett the latest, and post-World Cup deflections – yet few expected the seven-time defending champions to enter this uncharted territory.

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With derby games against the Blues at Eden Park and Chiefs to come in the next two weeks, Rob Penney needs to find answers fast or the Crusaders could soon be 0-6.

While the Crusaders will eventually regain Joe Moody, Ethan Blackadder, Tamaiti Williams, Fergus Burke and Codie Taylor, if they ever needed a backs-to-the-wall performance it is now.

The Hurricanes, so dominant in the first half, were forced to come from behind after the Crusaders regained composure to steal the lead for the first time in the 70th minute.

Despite battling an increasingly malfunctioning lineout Clark Laidlaw’s men proved they are no fast-track bullies by grinding their way downfield and imposing pressure, which resulted in replacement Crusaders lock Jamie Hannah being sent to the bin with three-and-a-half minutes remaining.

From an audacious quick tap kick, replacement Hurricanes lock Justin Sangster scored. The Crusaders had one last shot but instead they finished the contest with former All Blacks prop Owen Franks earning a yellow card for his clumsy cleanout attempt.

Victory maintains the Hurricanes presence at the top of the table as Super Rugby’s only unbeaten team. Their second-half performance warrants scrutiny but their ability to hang tough and respond from behind saw them perform a Crusaders on the Crusaders.