The Canterbury Crusaders yesterday needed luck and two penalty tries to launch their Super Rugby title defense with a narrow 24-22 victory over the Blues.
The Blues, on home ground in Auckland, were twice forced into crucial errors during the tense encounter when their forwards were under pressure on their own line.
“We just had a little bit of luck there at the end,” Crusaders skipper Matt Todd said. “It went back and forth in that second half. Both teams scored good tries when they got down in the opposition ends, so we just had to make sure we were the last ones to get points.”
Canterbury led 12-3 at the break before an explosive second-half start saw the Blues score twice for a 17-12 lead, but they could not maintain the momentum.
“It was there for us to take,” Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu said. “We weren’t clinical enough in certain areas. When we took our shot we came off second-best.”
The Blues, looking a much more polished outfit after their second-last finish last season, dominated possession in the first half.
HURRICANES 20, WARATAHS 19
New South Wales Waratahs flyhalf Bernard Foley had a bittersweet start to the season when he missed a simple late penalty chance to see his side slip to a 20-19 loss to the Wellington Hurricanes at the Brookvale Oval.
Foley had earlier become the Waratahs’ record points-scorer in Super Rugby, but could not win the game for his team after they were awarded a scrum penalty two minutes from time.
He kicked 14 points to go with a try for wing Curtis Rona, but put his crucial late penalty just wide of the posts from almost in front, much to the disappointment of the 17,111 crowd.
Jordie Barrett kicked 10 points for the Hurricanes to go with tries for flank Ardie Savea and debutant loose-forward Du’Plessis Kirifi.
“We were leading for so long ... but discipline cost us,” Waratahs captain Michael Hooper said.
The home side took the lead with an early penalty, Foley’s successful kick seeing him surpass the Waratahs’ Super Rugby points record of 959 held by Matt Burke.
After Barrett leveled the scores, Foley added two more penalties to extend the home side’s advantage to six points, before the Hurricanes grabbed the lead five minutes before halftime.
The visitors put the ball through numerous phases as they battered the Waratahs tryline, with Savea eventually barging his way over under the posts.
That lead lasted only a short while though, as Israel Folau was intercepted in the air and Foley gave the home side a 12-10 halftime advantage.
That was extended to nine points two minutes into the second period before Barrett closed the gap with another penalty. The visitors thought they had a second score for Savea when he barged over from close-range, but the try was disallowed.
However, Kirifi made up for his earlier error as he broke free from a driving maul to cross the tryline, with Barrett providing the conversion that put the Hurricanes ahead.
In the later game, the Sharks defeated the Sunwolves 45-10.
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