CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) – The Melbourne Rebels shocked the seven-time champion Crusaders 20-10 and the ACT Brumbies overwhelmed the Queensland Reds 47-3 in Super Rugby’s opening matches on Friday.
The Christchurch-based Crusaders were stacked with All Blacks, among them stars Dan Carter and Richie McCaw, making rare appearances in the first round. They hadn’t lost at home to Australian teams in 23 matches in 11 years.
But they were outplayed by a Rebels team which had never won in New Zealand, finished last in 2014, but had been significantly strengthened by off-season recruitment.
Nic Stirzaker was shown a yellow card during a first half in which both teams saw their scrumhalves sin-binned, but returned to score the winning try in the 65th minute.
Carter, whose early season appearances have been restricted in recent years by injuries and sabatticals, turned out to enhance his chances of selection in New Zealand’s Rugby World Cup squad. After a hesitant first half, operating behind a Crusaders forward pack which couldn’t establish any superiority, he limped from the field with an ankle injury during the second half.
“It was a tough game, very physical as we knew it was going to be,” Rebels captain Scott Higginbotham said. “We knew the Crusaders would play an 80-minute game. Credit to them, but credit to our boys for getting the win.”
The Reds were never in the game at Canberra, home of the Brumbies, and trailed 21-3 at halftime. The Brumbies scored six tries to nil for their biggest winning margin over the Reds, eclipsing the 51-8 result 11 years ago.
The embarrassed Reds finished with 14 men when former captain James Horwill received his second yellow card with four minutes left.