WATCH: Hapless Crusaders suffer first loss to Brumbies in 15 years

Brumbies prop Rhys Van Nek carries the ball during their Super Rugby Pacific clash against the Crusaders in Canberra on Saturday. Photo: Tracey Nearmy/AFP

Brumbies prop Rhys Van Nek carries the ball during their Super Rugby Pacific clash against the Crusaders in Canberra on Saturday. Photo: Tracey Nearmy/AFP

Published May 18, 2024


The ACT Brumbies ended a 15-year winless streak against the Canterbury Crusaders on Saturday, posting a dramatic 31-24 win that left the defending champions with little hope of reaching the Super Rugby Pacific playoffs.

A penalty try after the full-time hooter consigned the Crusaders to a record 10th defeat of the season, leaving them with only a small mathematical chance of playing in next month's quarter-finals.

Trailing 17-7 at halftime, the 13-time champions from Christchurch played some of their best rugby of a disjointed campaign to level the scores entering the final five minutes.

However, an 80th-minute penalty shot at goal from Brumbies fly-half Noah Lolesio struck an upright before Crusaders lock Quinten Strange illegally batted the ball over the dead ball line.

Referee Ben O'Keeffe deemed a Brumbies' try would probably have been scored without Strange's foul play, awarding a penalty try which was disputed by some of the Crusaders players.

Captain Codie Taylor couldn't hide his frustration following a first loss to the Brumbies since 2009.

"We gave ourselves a crack but it's a tough way to finish a game like that," Taylor said.

"I'm proud of the boys. There's a lot of effort out there but we can't quite string it together."

Brumbies fullback Tom Wright was a constant threat and scored two of their four tries while Crusaders winger Sevu Reece crossed for his 12th try of the season, three more than any other player in the competition.

The Brumbies win means the top four teams to host quarter-finals have been determined with two rounds still to be played in the regular season.

They are the competition-leading Auckland Blues — who thrashed the Otago Highlanders 47-13 — Wellington Hurricanes, Brumbies and Waikato Chiefs.

Hooker Kurt Eklund scored two tries as the Blues pack overwhelmed the Highlanders at Eden Park, setting up four unanswered tries in the second half.

A bonus point lifted the Blues three points clear of the second-placed Hurricanes.

Earlier, Suva-born Suliasi Vunivalu was sent off in a homecoming to forget as the Queensland Reds lost 28-19 to the Fijian Drua.

Reds winger Vunivalu was shown two yellow cards — both for foot-tripping — resulting in a red card that left the fifth-placed visitors one man down for much of the second half in heat-sapping Suva conditions.

The eighth-placed Drua notched a fifth win from six home matches this season, with captain Tevita Ikanivere crossing for two tries.

They were also awarded an early penalty try, conceded by Vunivalu when he tripped Kitione Salawa as the Drua flanker closed on the try-line.

The home side stayed in front throughout, aided by Vunivalu's trip on opposite number Selestino Ravutaumada during a Drua attacking raid soon after the interval.