Crusaders rediscover their best in Super Rugby Pacific

rugby19 March 2023 05:23| © AFP

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson praised his team for unearthing their best form after beating the Blues in a repeat of last year's Super Rugby Pacific final.

The six-time defending champions prevailed 34-28 in a clash of two All Blacks-laden New Zealand sides at Eden Park on Saturday, putting a dysfunctional start to the season behind them.

A week after their shock loss to the Fijian Drua in Lautoka, Robertson's men rediscovered their best attacking form to create five tries, including a hat-trick to winger Leicester Fainga'anuku.

However, it was their fortitude that impressed the coach most as they improved their record to two wins and two defeats – the same as the Blues.

Robertson singled out the scrambling defence that prevented Blues forwards James Tucker and Hoskins Sotutu from scoring in two late attacks that could have swung the game.

He believed it was a sign the Christchurch-based Crusaders have put an uncertain, injury-riddled start to the season behind them.

"The scramble, and the care shown in the in-goal, I just love those moments," he said after the win on Saturday evening.

"It’s our standard. I think we’ve set that now.

"We felt we were a catch away last week so we weren't far away at all. We’ve had a few injuries, but the guys have come in and stood right up."

Robertson revealed winger Sevu Reece incurred an ankle injury that could see him join a handful of the team's other All Blacks on the sideline ahead of Friday's headline clash with the unbeaten Brumbies.

This week he was unable to select test players Will Jordan, David Havili, Jack Goodhue and Fletcher Newell because of injuries.

He revealed Fainga'anuku was also playing with the pain of an injured rib.

Robertson has had to cope with the added distraction of applying for the All Blacks head coaching post, which will become vacant when Ian Foster finishes following this year's World Cup.

Robertson is favoured to win a New Zealand Rugby appointment process, which is set to conclude by mid-April.

The Chiefs remain top of the standings following a 44-25 home win over the Melbourne Rebels.

In-form Chiefs fullback Shaun Stevenson crossed twice to notch a competition-high seven tries for the season and further his claim for a maiden All Blacks call-up.

The second-placed Brumbies are also four-from-four after pulling away from Moana Pasifika 62-36 in a 14-try spectacular in Canberra.

The Hurricanes cemented third place with a 34-17 defeat of the New South Wales Waratahs, boosted by doubles for young backs Cam Roigard and Kini Naholo.