Super Rugby Trans-Tasman: Crusaders hang on for first-up victory as Brumbies miss chance to snatch last-minute draw

The Crusaders have come within touching distance of being held to a draw in their Super Rugby Trans-Tasman opener, holding on for a 31-29 victory over the Brumbies in Christchurch.

Despite having taken a 19-7 lead into halftime, the Brumbies produced a hearty second-half display, with a try on the siren giving first-five Noah Lolesio the chance to earn a draw with his boot.

But the fortune that's seen the Crusaders become such a force over the last five years didn't desert them in front of their OrangeTheory Stadium faithful, as Lolesio's kick drifted left to give the hosts victory.

Beginning their quest for a sixth title in the last five years, it took the Crusaders less than five minutes to open the scoring, as Ethan Blackadder capped off a free-flowing counter-attack for the first try of the night.

But the Brumbies flipped the script by taking the lead at OrangeTheory Stadium, as Scott Sio crashed over from close range, as Lolesio's conversion put the visitors ahead 7-5.

Richie Mo'unga restored the Crusaders' advantage though, as he sliced through the Brumbies' line for his side's second try of the night after a huge scrum from the reigning Super Rugby champions, and restoring the five-point lead.

David Havili was in next for the Crusaders, making the most of an intercept thrown by Brumbies halfback Ryan Lonergan, and racing away uncontested to score. 

Despite calls of a potential offside against the Crusaders' second-five though, replays had Havili in the clear, as the Crusaders took a 19-7 lead into halftime.

The Brumbies came out swinging in the second half, as Irae Simone pounced to score, diving on a loose ball that the Crusaders missed from the back of a ruck, as a penalty from Lolesio closed the gap to just two points at 19-17.

Blackadder looked to have his second try not long after, breaking down the wing and grounding the ball in the corner - only to be ruled to have gone into touch.

But the Brumbies could only keep the Crusaders out for so long, as the hosts scored their fourth try of the night through replacement forward Brendan O'Connor, benefiting from a textbook lineout drive.

Despite a nasty cut to the right side of his head, Cullen Grace added the Crusaders' next try, again benefiting from the work done by his forward pack as the home side extended their lead to two converted tries.

Brumbies fullback Tom Banks gave his side hope of a second-half fightback, beating both Braydon Ennor and George Bridge, while holding off at least two other Crusaders defenders to score.

Lolesio's conversion set up a thrilling finish, as the Brumbies trailed 31-24 inside the final 10 minutes.

The Crusaders' cause was hindered with only three minutes remaining, as halfback Ereatara Enari was shown a yellow card for constant infringements, meaning his side would finish the match with 14-men.

And the Brumbies made the most of their numerical advantage, as No.8 Rob Valentini scored out on the left wing to give the visitors the chance to walk away with a draw.

But despite being perfect with the boot all night, Lolesio couldn't add the extras that would have earned the Brumbies a share of the points, having to walk away with an honourable defeat.

The result moves the Crusaders to third on the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, behind the Highlanders and the Hurricanes, as all three Kiwi teams to have played recorded first-up wins.

The Blues and Chiefs are still to play on Saturday night.

Crusaders - Blackadder, Mo'unga, Havili, O'Connor, Grace tries; Mo'unga 3 conversions

Brumbies - Sio, Simone, Banks, Valetini tries; Lolesio 3 conversions, penalty goal