By WYNNE GRAY
CRUSADERS 31 BRUMBIES 13
The Crusaders rewarded themselves and their parochial fans when they continued their unbeaten Super 12 journey in a gruelling final against the Brumbies.
It is the fourth time in five years that the Crusaders have won the title but the first in Christchurch as they overcame the defending champions.
Playing into a very strong wind the Crusaders led 11-3 at half-time on the back of a Marika Vunibaka try, three kicking successes from Andrew Mehrtens and some massive defence.
The Brumbies lost play-maker Stephen Larkham with an arm injury. But with eight minutes left they had clawed back to just a point behind when Andrew Walker intercepted and converted his own try.
Faced with losing a match they had largely controlled, the Crusaders kicked into another gear. Mehrtens dropped a goal for a small buffer before the Brumbies conceded two converted tries as they tried to complete a last desperate comeback.
Crusaders left wing Caleb Ralph scored both, his first when the Crusaders turned over a long Brumbies lineout throw, and the last when he intercepted and ran 75 metres.
Crusaders 31: Vunibaka, Ralph (2): tries, Mehrtens: 3 penalties, 2 conversions, 1 drop goal.
Brumbies 13: Walker: try, 2 penalties, conversion.