The most successful team in Super Rugby history were far from perfect during a 42-32 win against the Hurricanes in Dunedin on Saturday.
The side survived two yellow cards and were on the right side of every big momentum shift as Leicester Fainga’anuku started his year with three tries.
The Hurricanes had a year’s worth of bad luck, having three tries ruled out for the officials for a variety of reasons, and they will have reason to grumble about the ruling that prevented Ardie Savea from scoring what would have been a fine individual try in the second half.
The TMO found a knock-on from veteran prop Ben May in the buildup, but it was marginal at best.
Still, you have to credit the Crusaders who seemed to feast on every bit of Hurricanes ill fortune.
Their set-piece was dominant when it needed to be, and in typical Crusaders fashion they managed the game superbly when prop Oli Jager was sent to the sin bin towards the end of the first half.
In the eerily quiet surrounds of a near-empty Forsyth Barr Stadium, the opening quarter felt like a training run as the Crusaders cruised to handy lead on the back of two tries to Fainga’anuku.
At that stage it looked like the Crusaders wouldn’t need to get out of third gear, but the Hurricanes sparked into life as Wes Goosen, Jordie Barrett, Ardie Savea and Asafo Aumua started to get their hands on the ball.
The Hurricanes created plenty of opportunities, but the Crusaders bossed the third quarter as Fainga’anuku collected his third try from a clever lineout move and No 10 Fergus Burke kept the scoreboard ticking over with his accurate goalkicking.
That blasted their 15-13 halftime to a handy advantage the Hurricanes couldn’t run down, despite the best efforts of the outstanding Barrett.