WELLINGTON, New Zealand, Mar 6 – Defending Super Rugby champions Canterbury Crusaders survived a 24-20 scare against Queensland Reds Friday, as ACT Brumbies romped to a 47-14 win over Japan’s Sunwolves.
The Reds outscored the Crusaders by four tries to three but missed all their conversions and a penalty to let the 10-time champions off the hook.
The result puts the Crusaders on top of the Super Rugby ladder alongside the Brumbies on 18 points, overhauling the Western Stormers on 17, who have a bye this week.
It also extends the Crusaders’ undefeated home record to 34 matches but captain Scott Barrett admitted they failed to dominate a committed young Reds side.
“We were ill-disciplined and tried to push too many passes, we didn’t play that smart really,” he said.
Reds skipper Liam Wright said he was “incredibly proud” of his side, even though they posted their fifth loss in six matches and an eighth straight defeat to the Crusaders.
“We didn’t come here for a strong and brave loss, we wanted a win and we put ourselves in a position to do it,” he said, refusing to blame his goalkickers for the loss.
“I see them doing the extras every week, long after we’re back in the sheds. They’re putting in the work but it’s just not paying off just yet.”
The Crusaders opened the scoring when Joe Moody barged between the posts in the 12th minute but the Reds hit back immediately, working the ball wide to winger Chris Feauai-Sautia.
The Queenslanders locked up the scores at 10-10 when Harry Wilson edged the ball through a crush of players onto the line and were unlucky not to be ahead at the break.
The sides exchanged tries after the restart but the Reds’ could not convert while Richie Mo’unga slotted home to make it 17-15.
The Crusaders scored their third through Leicester Fainga’anuku after a blockbusting run from Jack Goodhue.
Henry Speight then sparked a Reds resurgence with a try-scoring break that started deep within his own half.
The Queenslanders were chasing the win until the final moments, when an attack broke down three minutes after the siren.
Earlier, the Brumbies, semi-finalists last year, made it four wins from five seven-try display over the Sunwolves.
The game was moved to the neutral venue of Wollongong, south of Sydney, from Japan because of the deadly coronavirus, which has thrown the world’s sporting calendar into turmoil.
“We started well in the first half then lost our way a bit, but happy with the way the boys started the second-half,” Brumbies skipper Alan Alaalatoa said after the bonus-point win.
Halfback Ryan Lonergan made a dream debut found a gap in the defensive line then converted his own try.
It was 14-0 inside 20 minutes with flanker Will Miller crossing after a clever offload from Murray Douglas.
The Sunwolves, playing their final season as unwieldy Super Rugby slims down to 14 teams, responded when hooker Efitusi Maafu dotted down from a driving maul.
But they were caught napping when Rob Valetini darted down the left wing to put the Brumbies up 21-7 at half-time.
The Canberra-based team ruthlessly exposed the Sunwolves’ suspect defence with another four tries before big lock Michael Stolberg’s late consolation effort.
“We continue to have lapses in concentration which continue to hurt us,” said Sunwolves co-captain Jake Schatz.