Super Rugby Pacific: Crusaders round out northern pre-season swing with victory over Bristol Bears

Crusaders perform a haka against Bristol Bears.
Crusaders perform a haka against Bristol Bears. Photo credit: Getty Images

Try doubles to winger Macca Springer and midfielder Levi Aumua have helped the Crusaders salvage a win against Bristol Bears on their northern hemisphere pre-season tour.

After losing to Irish club Munster last week, the Super Rugby Pacific champions - again without their All Blacks - trailled early, but found some spark off the bench to finish strongly as 31-14 winners.

Coached by former Crusaders loose forward Pat Lam, the Bears sit midtable of the Rugby Premiership and feature former All Black Steven Luatua on their roster.

In greasy conditions, both sides took time to acclimatise, with the visitors struggling to capitalise on their opportunities in the opening 20 minutes.

The Crusaders turned down a kickable penalty and squandered the subsequent attacking opportunity, but a counterattack from Bristol saw lock Joe Batley rumble over from a lineout maul for the opening points.

Hooker George Bell seemed to have scored from a lineout maul, but was held up by the Bears defence.

With halftime beckoning, No.8 Christian Lio-Wilie charged off the back of an attacking lineout and several phases later, Springer found space to dive over in the opposite corner.

After missing a gamesaving conversion against Munster, first-five Rivez Reihana made no mistake with his sideline kick to draw level 7-7 at the break. 

Soon after the restart, Springer lost his grasp on the slippery ball, as he tried to repeat the dose, but made no mistake, when Bell made a telling run into the 22 and centre Jone Rova crosskicked for his wing to gather.

Reduced to 14 men by a yellow card, Bristol replied, when James Williams broke the Crusaders defence and found Kieran Marmion with a marginal pass to score near the posts.

From another attacking lineout, Aumua spun over between the uprights to restore the Crusaders advantage. Aumua was across again, when the ball was hacked downfield, putting the Bristol defence under pressure. Two Crusaders contested the maul, with Aumua arriving to rip the ball free and score. 

Halfback Noah Hotham put the seal on victory, after lock Jamie Hannah galloped into the 22 and offloaded to his support.

The Crusaders will now return to New Zealand for a final pre-season tune-up against the Highlanders at Methven on Friday, before opening their title defence where they left off last season - a rematch with beaten finalists Chiefs on February 23. 

Crusaders 31 (Springer 2, Aumua 2 & Hotham tries; Reihana 2 & Kemara conversions) Bristol 14 (Batley & Marmion tries; McGinty 2 conversions)