CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — The Crusaders won their opening match in Super Rugby for the first time in seven years, surviving a poor second half to beat the ACT Brumbies 17-13 on Saturday.
Former Chiefs and All Blacks center Seta Tamanivalu scored the Crusaders' first try of the season after only four minutes and the early signs in the match at Christchurch pointed to a comprehensive win for the home side.
But the Brumbies, fielding a young and new-look combination, defended stoutly throughout the match, competed well at breakdowns and allowed only one more try before halftime, despite the heavy weight of possession in favor of the Crusaders.
"It's always a tough match against the Brumbies," Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock said. "The Brumbies have a great history playing us and tonight was no different."
The win was the Crusaders' sixth in a row over the Brumbies and completed a clean sweep for New Zealand teams in the first round. The Blues, Hurricanes, Chiefs and Crusaders were all winners while the Highlanders lost to a New Zealand opponent.
Earlier, the Wellington-based Hurricanes began the defense of their Super Rugby title with a 13-try, 83-17 win over the Sunwolves at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in central Tokyo.
All Blacks openside flanker Ardie Savea crossed in the fifth minute and Vince Aso two minutes later. Savea then scored his second try of the match in the 10th minute before hooker Ricky Riccitelli helped give the New Zealanders a 24-0 lead.
It didn't get any better for the Sunwolves, who are starting their second full season in Super Rugby. The Hurricanes led 31-0 after 20 minutes and 45-5 at halftime.
When South African import Riaan Viljoen scored for the Sunwolves in the 33rd minute to reduce the home team's deficit to 33 points, thousands of Japanese fans in the stadium erupted in cheers and waved flags when the try was confirmed by the video referee.
Flyhalf Otere Black kicked nine conversions for the Hurricanes.
At Sydney, Reece Robinson kicked four penalties and a conversion to lead the New South Wales Waratahs to a 19-13 win over the Western Force.
In earlier weekend matches, winger James Lowe scored two intercept tries in the first half to help give the Chiefs a 24-15 win over the Highlanders in a New Zealand derby. The Queensland Reds opened with a 28-26 win over the Sharks and teenage center Reiko Ioane scored three tries — the first hat trick by a Blues player in four years —as the Aucklanders beat Melbourne 56-18.