22 Feb 2015

Crusaders claim first win

2:52 pm on 22 February 2015

The Crusaders withstood a late fightback to edge the Highlanders 26-20 in Dunedin and register their first win of the Super Rugby season.

The Crusaders Robbie Fruean on the charge.

The Crusaders Robbie Fruean on the charge. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Crusaders, who suffered a shock loss at home to the Melbourne Rebels in last week's opening round, showed better form on the road.

The visitors scored two tries in the first half, through lock Scott Barrett, the younger brother of All Blacks and Hurricanes first-five Beauden, and wing Johnny McNichol, to lead 20-7 at half-time after All Black halfback Aaron Smith had given the Highlanders an early lead with the first try.

The Crusaders extended their lead to 23-7 with a penalty from Colin Slade in the 51st minute but spent the last half an hour on the back foot as the Highlanders took control of the South Island derby.

All Blacks centre Malakai Fekitoa barged over on the hour and first-five Lima Sopoaga booted a penalty eight minutes from time to give the home side a chance of snatching victory before a late penalty from Slade gave the Crusaders the breathing space needed to record the win.

"It was a true southern derby and we're very happy to come away with the points at the end," the Crusaders captain Matt Todd says.

"There's still plenty to work on but it's a good step from last week."

The Highlanders, who had the bye in the first round, collected a bonus point for losing by less than seven when Sopoaga landed a angled penalty after the full-time siren.

"We were a bit rusty first up... so we've got a few things to work on," Highlanders co-captain Ben Smith says. "But we got a point and you need every point you can get in this competition."

The Crusaders prop Owen Franks and the Highlanders front rower Kane Hames have both been cited for striking during the match.

Also Saturday night, the Queensland Reds put Karmichael Hunt's drugs controversy to one side to post a gutsy 18-6 win over the Western Force in Brisbane.

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