Super Rugby Pacific: Crusaders scramble to desperate win over Melbourne Rebels to extend streak

Second-five David Havili scored a try double to help the Crusaders rally from a halftime deficit to a 43-27 bonus-point victory over Melbourne Rebels.

The six-time defending champions struggled to capitalise on their territory advantage during the opening 40 minutes, scoring two tries from 14 visits to the redzone, but were more clinical as the contest wore on - and their rivals wore out.

Melbourne were still ahead with 10 minutes remaining, but late call-up Ioane Moananu stormed over near the posts to reclaim the lead for the Crusaders, and first-five Richie Mo'unga slotted an important penalty and then sparked the bonus-point try to Dallas McLeod after the final siren.

David Havili in action for the Crusaders
David Havili in action for the Crusaders. Photo credit: Getty Images

The southerners were rocked before kickoff, when All Blacks hooker Codie Taylor did not make the trip across the Tasman, replaced by Brodie McAlister in the starting line-up, with Moananu brought into the reserves.

That disruption seemed to set them on the backfoot and although they scored first through winger Macc Springer, the Rebels took early control with tries to captain Brad Wilkin and No.8 Vaiolini Ekuasi.

A loan player from the Blues, Ekuasi pounced on a loose ball near his own goal-line to gallop 90 metres for his try and although Havili narrowed the deficit with his first try, Mo'unga shanked a handy conversion that would have levelled the scores.

Halfback Ryan Louwrens extended the hometeam lead and first-five Brad Hodge slotted a penalty for a 24-12 halftime advantage.

If the Crusaders needed any encouragement, they needed only recall Melbourne's last outing, when they led the Blues at the break, but conceded 41 unanswered points after the restart.

The capitulation wasn't nearly as dramatic this time, but the Rebels allowed their guests back into the match and you simply can't give the Crusaders half a chance.

Springer seemed to have his second early in the second half, but was denied by a review that found a knockon in an attacking lineout win.

From the ensuing scrum, the Crusaders pack won a tighthead and a penalty. Veteran Sam Whitelock won the attacking lineout and after several forwards went close, Havili stretched out in traffic for his second.

Crusaders 43 (Springer, Grace, Moananu, McLeod & Havili 2 tries; Mo'unga 5 conversions & penalty) Melbourne Rebels 27 (Wilkin, Louwrens & Ekuasi tries; Hodge 3 conversions & 2 penalties)

More to come