All Blacks flyhalf Tom Taylor kicked six penalties and hooker Ben Funnell scored the only try for the Crusaders as the New Zealand side labored past the Melbourne Rebels 25-19 in Super XV yesterday.
Seven-time champions the Crusaders led 12-9 at halftime, all penalties, and the Rebels scored their only try with two minutes remaining through flanker Scott Fuglistaller, giving them a bonus point for losing by fewer than seven points.
After starting with two losses, the Crusaders have won two straight heading into a bye next weekend.
Taylor, playing outside recalled flyhalf Colin Slade, kicked the Crusaders to their halftime lead, while fullback Jason Woodward provided all of the Rebels’ points.
The first try of the match came in the 56th minute with the Rebels, with one win and two losses this season, trying to hold out waves of attack, before they were caught short when Kieran Read gave Funnell a free run into the right corner. The conversion and another penalty from Taylor pushed the lead to 13.
Fuglistaller crossed late after the forwards mauled the ball. Bryce Hegarty added the conversion to ensure the bonus point.
The Rebels, beaten 32-7 by the Western Force in the previous round, reinstated the lineup which easily defeated the Cheetahs in their season-opener and were stronger defensively as they tried for a fifth consecutive win at home, but persistent infringing, particularly at the scrum, enabled the Crusaders to take the lead from Taylor’s boot.
Melbourne skipper Scott Higginbotham was frustrated with the penalty count.
“We pride ourselves on our defense and how tough we are at the breakdown, and it was disappointing to give away that many penalties,” Higginbotham said.
Rebels coach Tony McGahan said the Crusaders’ experience proved to be the difference.
“They were just a bit cuter than us in certain aspects and they controlled things really well,” McGahan said.