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Brumbies brave in narrow loss to Crusaders

NZN 24/02/2017

The Brumbies have failed to break a 17-year hoodoo in Christchurch, going down to the Crusaders 17-13 despite a defiant performance in their Super Rugby season opener.

While the home side was heavily favoured to win on Saturday, the Brumbies refused to go down without a fight.

Without the likes of departed stars Stephen Moore, Joe Tomane, Matt Toomua and David Pockock, the new-look Brumbies were brave in defeat.

Co-captain Sam Carter said the club prided itself on developing young talent after an encouraging performance from young fullback Joe Powell.

"We wanted to play the full 80 minutes and we dug deep but just came up short at the end," Carter said.

New Zealand-born debutant flyhalf Wharenui Hawera brought the Brumbies within four points with 13 minutes to play with a penalty goal to give the home side a nervous finish.

The Crusaders' Richie Mo'unga had a chance to hit back minutes later but shanked his kick at goal from 30 metres out.

Despite dominating the first half, the Crusaders were unable to convert the lion's share of possession and territory into points.

Fullback Israel Dagg celebrated his 100th Super Rugby match with a brilliant first term, setting up the opening try of the match for Seta Tamanivalu after three minutes.

He also played a part in the Crusaders' second five-pointer, giving a slick offload to Whetu Douglas who crossed after the half-hour mark.

The Crusaders went to the break leading 12-3 but should have been further in front, with a determined Brumbies defence keeping the visitors in the contest.

The Brumbies heeded a directive from coach Stephen Larkham to run the ball more at the start of the second half and it paid dividends, with Rory Arnold crossing for a try to bring them within two of the Crusaders.

But the home side pushed their way over the line 15 minutes later, with flanker Peter Samu crossing for a try to extend their lead to seven.

Recruit Chris Alcock showed he was ready to step into the hole left by Pocock's sabbatical, putting in a solid performance in his first game for the Brumbies.

Errant kicking hurt the Brumbies with Hawera failing to find touch on a number of occasions.

But their dogged defensive efforts were an encouraging sign the side is not necessarily in for a tough season despite the departure of more than 700 games of experience.

Winger James Dargaville was controversially yellow-carded in the first half after a mid-air collision with Dagg, and the Brumbies almost held the Crusaders at bay, until Samu's try.

"It became tough with 14 men but I think everyone got up, made a tackle, got back in the line and worked for each other which is something that's a real positive for us," Carter told AAP.

"It's something we'll definitely have to use going into the next game."

Carter said he had expected a tough first-up assignment in Christchurch but was pleased with the side's attitude.

"We can take a lot of confidence out of that but at the end of the day it is a loss," Carter said.

"That's not what we wanted, that's not what we came over here for so we've got a lot of things to work on next week.

"We wanted to get out there and put our best effort on the park and I think that's what happened."

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