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Highlanders 13 Crusaders 26
Highlanders (Frizell, Garden-Bachop tries; Hunt 1 penalty )
Crusaders (Taylor, Hall, Reece, McAlister tries; Mo'unga 3 conversion)
Click here for a full match wrap and highlights.
80+1 mins - The home side have one final attack deep inside the Crusaders 22. Ioane goes for the cross-field kick and its pin-point but Liam Squire knocks it on with the goal line at his mercy and that'll be full time.
80 mins - YELLOW CARD CRUSADERS -to Scott Barrett
The Highlanders are throwing the ball around as the siren goes. Nareki throws the ball in-field and Barrett tackles Fakatava without the ball is sent to th bin.
78 mins - The Crusaders are right back onto the attack with Reece looking dangerous. Mo'unga puts a chip kick in behind the Highlanders defence, which finds Josh Mckay who can't ground the ball, so we will see our first goal line drop out of the season.
74 mins - TRY CRUSADERS to Brodie McAlister
The Crusaders seal the deal with their trademark driving maul. From a lineout 12 metres out, they drive their way over through replacement hooker McAlister. The visitors punish the Highlanders for not converting their earlier opportunities and it's hard to see the home side coming back from this.
Mo'unga converts the try. (CRU 26-13)
71 mins - After both sides trade a series of kicks, Mo'unga brings a long passage of play to a close with a pin-point kick into touch inside the Highlanders 22.
69 mins - What defence from the Crusaders as they force the Highlanders into unforced error. Will the look back on the last three minutes and wonder what could've been?
67 mins - After hammering away for seven phases, Ioane puts a grubber into the in-goal area and Sio Tomkinson grounds the ball but Ben O'Keeffe will go upstairs.
After review there was a knock-on a the previous ruck so it's no try but the referee was playing advantage so the home side will have a penalty.
The home side take a quick-tap from the penalty. After three phases, the Crusaders give away another penalty and O'Keeffee has put the visitors on a warning.
65 mins - The Highlanders are back on the attack after another unforced error from the Crusaders. Josh Ioane puts a perfect grubber in and forces Mo'unga to run it into touch just five metres out from their own line.
63 mins - The Crusaders build their attack but after 10 phases they win a breakdown penalty. With nothing on, Mo'unga goes for a drop-goal but he misses slightly to the right but referee Ben O'Keeffe goes back for the penalty.
Mo'unga will have a shot at goal from out wide but he misses wide.
60 mins - Just like that the Crusaders are inside the Highlanders 22. From the lineout, Mo'unga puts a pin-point kick to the home side around force them into a defensive lineout.
58 mins - The home side are back on the attack with a lineout just seven metres out, but the throw isn't straight and the attacking opportunity goes begging.
From the scrum, the Crusaders destroy the home side and win a penalty to ease the pressure and Mo'unga will clear down to half way
53 mins - The Highlanders are trying to respond and after 11 phases of attack, Smith puts a bomb up which Mo'unga can't handle. It falls to Graden-Bachop who breaks down the sideline before flinging a pass infield.
The next phases sees Hunt go for the advantageous cross-field kick but it goes dead in goal.
48 mins - TRY CRUSADERS to Sevu Reece
From a scrappy lineout, the Crusaders build their attack just five metres out. The visitors come back to the short side and a beautiful cut-out pass from Mo'unga finds Seve Reece. He shows great footwork to finish spectacularly in the corner.
Mo'unga can't convert the try from out wide. (CRU 19-13)
46 mins - Crusaders are focused on playing territory and keeping the Highlanders in their own half. Mo'unga puts a perfect grubber in to give the home side a lineout inside their own 22.
The first sub of the night sees Mitch Drummond on for Bryn Hall
42 mins - PENALTY GOAL HIGHLANDERS to Mitch Hunt
Crusaders make a sloppy start to the second half. Richie Mo'unga is trying to break tackles before being brought down. He gets back to his feet but doesn't release the ball to give away the penalty.
Mitch Hunt will have a shot at goal from right in front from 40 metres out and he's nailed it. (CRU 14-13)
40 mins - Mitch Hunt gets the second half underway.
Halftime - What a half of rugby to kick start the new season. Both sides were very keen to throw the ball around and the packed Forsyth Barr Stadium were treated to high-energy attacking rugby.
All Blacks hooker Codie Taylor crashed over for the first try of the season before Bryn Hall grabbed his sides second.
The momentum swung in the home sides favour after Ethan Blackadder was sent to the sin bin.
The Highlanders punished the defending champions with two unconverted tries to Shannon Frizell and Connor Garden-Bachop
40 mins - The Crusaders are becoming sloppy with the ball in hand and make another error to put the home side on the attack as the siren goes. The Highlanders can't make anything of the attack and that'll be half time.
36 mins - TRY HIGHLANDERS to Conor Garden-Bachop
A great set move from the backs off the back of a lineout finds Jona Nareki in space. He draws and passes the final defender and puts Garden-Bachop over in the corner. Hunt can't convert the try again. (CRU 14-10)
34 mins - The visitors are hot on the attack after Reece uses his speed and footwork to put his head through the line. The next phase sees prop Joe Moody break into the backfield but Billy Harmon wins a reliving penalty.
32 mins - The Highlanders counter-attack from their own 22 where Alaimalo and Mikaele-Tu’u combine to have their side on the Crusaders 10 metre line but the big No.8 makes an error in contact.
27 mins - TRY HIGHLANDERS to SHANNON FRIZELL
The pressure has finally told as Frizell crashes over for the home side to grab their first try of the new season.
The Highlanders have a scrum just five metres out, and a well worked play sees Aaron Smith throw a bullet pass to Frizell to crash over in the corner. Mitch Hunt can't convert the try. (CRU 14-5)
23 mins - YELLOW CARD CRUSADERS Ethan Blackadder
After repetitive offsides, Ben O'Keefe has seen enough and sent Blackadder to the bin for 10 metres. The Highlanders will have another lineout, third in a row.
20 mins - The Highlanders stall the Crusaders momentum as they win the kickoff back. They build phases before winning a breakdown penalty and will have a lineout, just five metres out from the visitors line.
17 mins - TRY CRUSADERS to Bryn Hall
The defending champions are on fire. From the lineout, the backs show great hands to find Sevu Reece in space just short of the Highlanders 22. He puts in a centring kick that finds Hall who crashes over. Mo'unga converts the try. (CRU 14-0)
13 mins - TRY CRUSADERS to Codie Taylor
A great short pass from Sam Whitelock puts Taylor in a gapping hole and the All Black hooker sprints 40m to score under the sticks. Mo'unga converts the try. (CRU 7-0)
11 mins - The Crusaders are hot on the attack with the Highlanders scrambling in defence. Bryn Hall goes for the miracle cut-out pass but only finds Alaimalo.
The home side win a breakdown penalty to ease the pressure and will have a lineout just outside their own 22.
The visitors give away a cheap penalty for being offside at the lineout and men the south will go on the attack inside the Crusaders 22.
6 mins - After giving away a free-kick at the lineout, the Crusaders make a statement early at scrum time.
The experienced pack smash the Highlanders and win a penalty to ease the pressure.
4 mins - What defence from the Crusaders who win the ball back at the rolling maul on their goaline. They quickly turn their attention to counter-attacking but Sevu Reece kicks the ball into touch on the full.
3 mins - The Highlanders win a penalty at the maul and push and shove breaks out between the home sides lock Jack Regan and Joe Moody.
2 mins - Highlanders have made a fast start after winning a penalty on halfway. Mitch Hunt puts his side on the attack with a line out just seven meters out.
Kickoff - Richie Mo'unga gets the seasons underway.
7:04pm - The Highlanders will perform a new haka prior to things getting underway!
7:03pm - Scott Barrett leads his Crusaders side out and the defending champions will pay respect to the Christchurch earthquake victims with a special logo on the chest of their playing kit.
Ash Dixon leads his side out to a loud welcome from a packed Forsyth Barr Stadium
6:45pm - Kick off to the opening game of Super Rugby Aotearoa is just 20 minutes away and the confirmed team lists are in.
Kia ora, good evening and welcome to Newshub's live coverage of the opening game of Super Rugby Aotearoa between the Highlanders and the Crusaders at Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium.
Super Rugby is back and what a way to start the new season with the southern derby. After two weeks of pre-season action, both sides are ready to put on a show under the roof in Dunedin.
The home side are looking to improve on last season's inconsistency, which saw them finish fourth and have made the bold move of replacing head coach Aaron Mauger with Highlanders legend Tony Brown.
The new head coach will hope to bring the 'party back to Tony Brown's place' in the deep south, as the southerners seek their second Super Rugby title, after their successful 2015 season.
After a year away in Japan, the return of 24-test All Black Liam Squire headlines the Highlanders squad, adding much needed power to the lose forward trio, when he comes off the bench, while fellow new signing Solomon Alaimalo will bring x-factor from fullback, something they lacked in 2020.
The four-time defending champions look as impressive as ever and will be the team to beat at the start of the new campaign.
Even with injuries to All Blacks David Havili, George Bridge and Braydon Ennor, the 'red and blacks' still possess a blockbusting backline.
The Crusaders welcome back inspirational skipper Scott Barrett, who missed the 2020 competition with a foot injury and will lead the side in the season-opener.
Barrett will form a formidable second row with fellow All Black Sam Whitelock, while Leicester Fainga'anuku and Dallas McLeod will fill the voids left by injured All Blacks Bridge and Ennor.
TAB odds: Highlanders $2.95, Crusaders $1.36
Highlanders: 1-Daniel Lienert-Brown, 2-Ash Dixon (co-captain), 3-Siate Tokolahi, 4-Josh Dickson, 5-Jack Regan, 6-Shannon Frizell, 7-Billy Harmon, 8-Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, 9-Aaron Smith, 10-Mitch Hunt, 11-Jona Nareki, 12-Sio Tomkinson, 13-Ngantungane Punivai, 14-Connor Garden-Bachop, 15-Solomon Alaimalo
Reserves: 16-Liam Coltman, 17-Josh Hohneck, 18-Jeff Thwaites, 19-Bryn Evans, 20-Liam Squire, 21-Folau Fakatava, 22-Josh Ioane, 23-Hugh Renton
Crusaders: 1-Joe Moody, 2-Codie Taylor, 3-Michael Alaalatoa, 4-Scott Barrett (c), 5-Samuel Whitelock, 6-Ethan Blackadder, 7-Tom Christie, 8-Cullen Grace, 9-Bryn Hall, 10-Richie Mo'unga, 11-Leicester Fainga'anuku, 12-Dallas McLeod, 13-Jack Goodhue, 14-Sevu Reece, 15-Will Jordan
Reserves: 16-Brodie McAlister, 17-George Bower, 18-Fletcher Newell, 19-Quinten Strange, 20-Sione Havili Talitui, 21-Mitchell Drummond, 22-Fergus Burke, 23-Chay Fihaki
Crusaders embracing pre-season COVID-19 uncertainty
The Crusaders are used to facing adversity and after this week's COVID-19 alert level changes forced the cancellation of 'Footy Fest' against the Blues, the defending Super Rugby Aotearoa champions are embracing the challenge.
After a massive scramble, the men from the south were confirmed to play a 'game of three halves' against the Blues and Chiefs in Cambridge on Saturday.
With Monday marking 10 years since the tragic Canterbury earthquake - which forced the Crusaders to play all their home games away from Christchurch, including one at Twickenham in London - this week's cancellation, then rescheduling of pre-season matches is something they're taking in their stride.
"We were OK with it," Robertson says. "I took the information and was asked 'could this work?' and said 'yeah, let's go it's great and we'll adapt'.
"One thing the last year-and-a-bit has taught us is the opportunity to play is a good thing. There were about five permutations going on.
"If it was back at Level 1 in Auckland, we were back to Eden Park, but we ended up in a great place and the boys have embraced it."
Robertson has confirmed the side’s All Blacks will return for 40 minutes of game-time. The Crusaders will play the Chiefs in the first half and welcome back inspirational captain Scott Barrett, who'll lead the side, while Codie Taylor will captain the second-half side against the Blues.
"[Barrett] had a tough year last season and as a captain, to be out for the majority of it, he took it hard," Robertson says. "He came back and played some great footy for the All Blacks, he's in great condition and a real leader, so the boys follow him."
The Super Rugby Aotearoa season has snuck up on everyone and the Crusaders start their campaign in just six days.
"We need a bit of pressure on us, as we've trained a lot," he says. "We have a massive game under the roof against the Highlanders, so we got to be on.
"One good thing about the All Blacks only allowed to play 40 minutes is the other guys get to play.
"Having two clear teams is a real opportunity for us, guys are putting their hands up for the week after, so performance really counts."