The Crusaders scored a key win over the Brumbies on Sunday, prevailing 30-23 with a workmanlike performance that has kick-started their campaign.
With both teams having a bye next weekend, this result was always going to be key in terms of whether they had a positive spell off the field.
And inspired by the returning Dan Carter, it was the Crusaders who won the contest as solid breakdown work combined with the Brumbies struggling for momentum against a strong defence saw the visitors get the four points.
Brumbies boss Jake White will not be happy with how his lacked the intensity that had seen them pitch their flag at the top of the overall standings. Consolation comes in the form of a losing bonus that leaves them a point clear after Round 12.
They did start the game well when an intercept try from Matt Toomua put them 0-7 to the good after Christian Lealiifano’s successful conversion.
But after a Lealiifano penalty, back came the Crusaders through a Carter penalty goal before Andy Ellis crabbed across the field before diving over. Carter’s conversion levelled matters.
The Crusaders were causing all kinds of bother at the breakdown and with Jesse Mogg and Stephen Moore struggling, the visitors sensed they had a big chance in the second-half.
Zac Guildford was the man to put them in front following excellent work from Ryan Crotty and Luke Romano on the left side and with Carter sending over the conversion, there was more than a feeling the Crusaders were back to their old selves after an off-colour start to 2013.
Carter extended the lead to 23-10 going into the final quarter with two penalties, striking the ball well on his return while Brumbies record holder George Smith’s threat was minimised.
Despite Lealiifano replying with a shot, the game was over as a contest when replacement Israel Dagg crossed for a breakout try that was converted by Carter in the 68th minute.
Home captain Ben Mowen did reply soon after, running in under the posts, but at 30-20 to the Crusaders with time ticking on, only a third Lealiifano penalty would trouble the scorers as the Brumbies took a single point from the action. The Crusaders claimed a vital four.
Tries: Toomua, Mowen
Con: Lealiifano, Toomua
Pen: Lealiifano 3
Tries: Guildford, Ellis, Dagg
Con: Carter 3
Pen: Carter 3
Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 George Smith, 6 Fotu Auelua, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Peter Kimlin, 3 Dan Palmer, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ben Alexander.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Leon Power, 19 Colby Faingaa, 20 Ian Prior, 21 Robbie Coleman, 22 Pat McCabe.
Crusaders: 15 Tom Taylor, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Dominic Bird, 19 Jordan Taufua, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Adam Whitelock, 22 Israel Dagg.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Andrew Lees (Australia), James Leckie (Australia)
Television match official: Matt Goddard (Australia)