Replacement Will Jordan has scored a last-gasp try to edge his Crusaders side to a 43-38 victory over the Highlanders in their Super Rugby pre-season clash at Southbridge.
With the Farmland Cup - and bragging rights - at stake, the defending Super Rugby champions claimed first blood against their southern rivals, running out to a 14-7 half-time lead through tries from midfielder Tim Bateman and loose forward Jordan Taufua.
They extended that advantage after the break, when substitute Tom Sanders crossed for the first of his two tries, but their rivals clawed their way back into the contest to edge ahead 26-24 for the first time.
Second-five Sio Tomkinson also grabbed a brace of tries that helped drag momentum the Highlanders' way, before winger Josh McKay scored to put them ahead 38-31 with time running out.
But the Crusaders, seeking their third straight Super Rugby crown, were not to be denied, with Canterbury lock Mitchell Dunshea closing the margin and then Tasman utility Jordan proving the matchwinner in the dying seconds.
The Highlanders open their regular-season account next Friday against the Chiefs in Hamilton, while the Crusaders travel north to face the Blues on Saturday.
Join us at 7:30pm Friday for live updates of the Chiefs vs Highlanders Super Rugby clash.