WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND (AP) – Leicester Fainga’anuku scored two tries yesterday to bring his tally to five in his last two matches as the Crusaders produced a 35-17 win over the previously unbeaten ACT Brumbies in Super Rugby Pacific.
In a later match, the Hamilton, New Zealand-based Chiefs remained the only unbeaten side with a 24-14 win over the New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney.
The win was a gift from the Christchurch-based Crusaders to their head coach, and soon-to-be All Blacks, Scott Robertson.
Robertson was named this week as the next All Blacks head coach, to replace Ian Foster after the World Cup in France in October. He might have been pleased with the result in Christchurch if not the performance: The Crusaders dropped a lot of ball and made several other unusual errors. He would have noted Fainga’anuku’s performance, which adds to the depth of talent available to the All Blacks on the wing.
The winger scored a try in each half and both from the same set move off a lineout. Hooker Codie Taylor threw to the lineout in the sixth minute, looped around the back to take the scrumhalf’s pass and fired a short pass to Fainga’anuku, who crashed through three tackles to score.
The Crusaders repeated the move in the 58th. Taylor again passed to Fainga’anuku and the big, powerful winger waded and twisted his way through tackles to score.
Taylor scored the vital try himself. The Brumbies had driven over the Crusaders’ line just before the halftime siren sounded and the referee ruled that he had called for the goalline drop out before time expired.
The Crusaders were able to play on, regain possession, force a lineout near the Brumbies line and drive Taylor over to lead 21-3 at the break.
With Fainga’anuku’s try and another just before fulltime for Christian Lio-Willie, the Crusaders took a bonus point from a win by five tries to two.
The Brumbies were under-strength, having left several Wallabies players at home to rest under Rugby Australia’s guidelines for test players in a test World Cup year.
They were outplayed in the first half by the Crusaders, who dominated scrums in the absence of Brumbies captain James Slipper and whose fast line speed on defense upset the Brumbies’ attack.
But the Brumbies were better in the second half, hitting the defensive line harder and creating ruptures that lead to tries for scrumhalf Ryan Longergan and winger Corey Toole. Toole’s try cut the Crusaders’ lead to 28-17 but the later try from Lio-Willie snuffed out their chances.
“Regardless of who turned up tonight we knew the Brumbies were going to front up, especially with their set piece and breakdown work,” Crusaders captain Scott Barrett said. “I’m just proud of our boys, they aced it. “
The Chiefs and Waratahs were level at 7-7 at halftime before the visiting team pulled away in the second half. Winger Emoni Narawa scored two tries for the Chiefs, including a 54-minute effort that gave the team a 17-7 lead.
A runaway 40-metre intercept try by Waratahs captain Jake Gordon in the 17th minute offset an early cross from Chiefs five-eighth Bryn Gatland.
Michael Hooper, in his 133rd Super Rugby game, making the flanker the most-capped Waratahs back-rower, gave his side hope when he finished off a driving maul try on the hour. But Narawa’s second try five minutes from fulltime sealed victory for the Chiefs.