Super Rugby Pacific: Champion Crusaders secure first win of season over hapless Highlanders

The champion Crusaders have quickly righted their listing Super Rugby Pacific campaign with a dominant 52-15 display over the Highlanders at Melbourne's 'Super Round'.

After a suprise lapse against the Chiefs in their season-opener at Christchurch, the Cantabrians struck back against their southern rivals, re-establishing their credentials in pursuit of a seventh straight championship.

After conceding early momentum to their opponents - including vexing scrum inadequacies - the Crusaders were able to turn the tables at lineout time to great affect.

Leicester Fainga'anuku scores a try for the Crusaders
Leicester Fainga'anuku scores a try for the Crusaders. Photo credit: Getty Images

No.8 Christian Lio-Willie stole a Highlanders throw to nullify an attacking opportunity, before fullback Sam Gilbert put his team under pressure, finding touch on the full from outside his 22.

From the attacking lineout, the Crusaders swept onto attack, with Mo'unga providing the initial thrust and captain Scott Barret laying on the final pass for Sevu Reece to score the opening try.

Their second came from a wayward Highlanders kick inside the Crusaders 22, pounced on by Richie Mo'unga, who broke over halfway, before finding support, with fullback Fergus Burke finishing the move.

On halftime, Prop Joe Moody scored a rare touchdown, when the Crusaders won an attacking lineout, mauled to the tryline and the front-rower pinched what would usually be a hooker's special.

Ahead 31-3 at the break, the champions wasted no time adding to their tally, with Mo'unga chasing a clever kick from David Havili behind the tryline to score.

Havili had the next try, after a storming run from flanker Ethan Blackadder, while Taylor finally got his try off a lineout maul.

When Leicester Fainga'anuku powered over under the crossbar, the Crusaders had put 50 points on their archrivals for the first time, but the Highlanders hung around, for centre Josh Timu to bag a try double in the closing moments for some respectability.

Nevertheless, the outcome also marked the first time the Highlanders have conceded 50 points on consecutive weeks.

The southerners have no respite next week, when they take on the Chiefs, while the titleholders head to Lautoka for a challenging road trip against Fiji Drua.

Crusaders 52 (Reece, Moody, Mo'unga, Havili, Taylor, Fainga'anuku & Burke tries; Mo'unga 7 conversions & penalty) Highlanders 15 (Timu 2 tries; Gilbert penalty, Burns conversion)

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