Crusaders end Brumbies' run
A faultless kicking display from Dan Carter and some superb running rugby saw the Crusaders end the Brumbies unbeaten home record in 2013 with a merited and hard-fought 30-23 victory at Canberra Stadium.
The New Zealanders were well worth the points, running in three excellent tries to add to Carter's 15-point haul and overturn an early 10-point deficit.
The Brumbies took the lead when a Crusaders back-line move was well read by fly-half Matt Tomua, who intercepted a pass and raced 80 metres to score next to the posts, allowing Christian Lealiifano the easiest of conversions. His next effort was again kickable, but from a much greater distance, as the inside centre slotted a 35m penalty to increase the Brumbies lead to 10-0.
The Crusaders have a more than reasonable kicker of their own in Carter and the All Black number 10 reduced the arrears with his first shot at goal 14 minutes in as the visitors grabbed a foothold in the match.
The experience in the Crusaders pack then came to the fore as a series of drives close to the Brumbies line was repelled by some top-class defending, but even the staunchest of tackling could not prevent scrum-half Andy Ellis picking up from the base of a ruck and crossing in the corner midway through the half. A sensational conversion from Carter brought the scores all-square.
With all to play for, the Crusaders came out of the traps firing and took the lead for the first time in the match nine minutes after the resumption. The Brumbies defence was sucked in by a succession of bursts from the New Zealanders before the ball was spun wide and an overlap allowed Zach Guilford to stroll over in the corner. Carter again added the extras.
A second penalty from Carter extended the lead to 10 points and left the Brumbies with plenty to do as the visitors exerted their command of the match, dominating field position and possession and leaving the Brumbies with only scraps to work with.
It was perhaps for this very reason that when presented with a chance for points, as they were with 20 minutes to play, that skipper Ben Mowen elected to kick for goal but Lealiifano's penalty drifted to the right of the posts. Carter had no such issues with his third penalty of the afternoon moments later.
Lealiifano found his range again in the 66th minute to reduce the gap to 10 points but they hit back with a turnover under the shadow of their own goalposts and proceeded to run the length of the field, with replacement Israel Dagg stepped inside an attempted tackle to cross the whitewash.
A late try from Mowen, converted by Tomua, gave some hope to the Brumbies but time ran out and the visitors held on to take the victory, with a last-minute Lealiifano penalty at least bringing the Brumbies the consolation of a bonus point.