Crusaders defeat Highlanders in first trial
February 7, 2014
Andy Ellis (l) and Israel Dagg both found the try-line for the Crusaders © Getty Images
The Crusaders have opened their season by scoring four tries to two in a 28-15 win over the Highlanders in their Super Rugby trial match Motueka.
Heavy pre-match rain and a soggy field detracted from the spectacle although it didn't stop the Crusaders racing 28-3 ahead midway through the third quarter. The Highlanders responded with late tries to former Melbourne Rebels hooker Ged Robinson and centre Malakai Fekitoa.
Both teams made a series of changes throughout the game although the Crusaders appeared to gel better, particularly on counter attack. They were playing together for the first time, having conducted an inter-squad practice match last week.
It was the Highlanders' second game of their pre-season campaign, having narrowly beaten the Brumbies in Queenstown last week.
All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg crossed early for the Crusaders followed by a try to scrum-half Andy Ellis, both of which were converted by fly-half Tyler Bleyendaal. A 14-0 quarter-time advantage became 21-3 at half-time after wing Nafi Tuitavake scored a long-range try in response to fly-half Willie Ripia's penalty for the Highlanders.
The Crusaders fourth try was scored by centre Kieron Fonotia, a member of their wider training group. It was converted by Colin Slade, in his first appearance since returning to the Crusaders following three injury-disrupted seasons with the Highlanders.