When the Brumbies go to sleep tonight, they'll be seeing Manasa Mataele in their nightmares.

Shrugging off defenders at will and eating up the metres, the Crusaders winger could not be stopped as he chalked up two tries in quick succession. However, for Crusaders fans, Mataele's imprint on the 21-8 win in Canberra would have been bittersweet as it came at the expense of Israel Dagg.

Dagg was collected with a high shot by Brumbies winger Chance Peni in the 20th minute. Peni was sin-binned, while Dagg left the field for a head injury assessment. He wouldn't return to the match.

Dagg wasn't the only one to fall to injury early in the physical encounter. The Crusaders lost prop Tim Perry after just five minutes to a hamstring injury, while the Brumbies lost midfielder Andrew Smith to a shoulder injury around the 21-minute mark.

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For the Crusaders, a win against the Brumbies would have put them at the top of the table following the Lions' loss to the Reds earlier in the night. But the Christchurch-based franchise found themselves playing from behind early when Brumbies winger Henry Speight caught them napping on the short side from a set piece and scored within 90 seconds of the opening whistle.

As the first half played out, it was a rare moment of attack from the Australian side. Crusaders midfielder Tim Bateman hit back soon after, then Mataele took over.

He was only on the pitch for five minutes before crashing over for his first of the night, before showing his footwork and speed to secure a double five minutes later.

Mike Delany was perfect with the boot, and the Crusaders held a healthy 21-8 lead at the break as a result.

The Crusaders were positioned to run away with the match when the second half got underway. Instead, they made things hard on themselves. The side were down to 13 men at one stage when Scott Barrett and Ryan Crotty were shown yellow cards in quick succession for infringements close to their own tryline.

It gave the Brumbies their best chance of the night to cross again, but the Crusaders' defence was up for the challenge and did not budge.

In contrast to the first 40 minutes, the Brumbies had the best of the possession in the second half, but couldn't find a way through the Crusaders' line.

In the end, the sides played out a scoreless second half, which wasn't enough for a bonus point, but was good enough for the Crusaders to move to the top of the ladder.

Crusaders 21 (Manasa Mataele 2, Tim Bateman tries; Mike Delany 3 cons)
Brumbies 8 (Henry Speight try; Wharenui Hawera pen)
HT: 21-8