Crusaders coach Scott Robertson might have thought the Super Rugby powers that be were out to even up the competition this year after he caught a glimpse of the fixture list.

Of the first nine games, the Crusaders play New Zealand teams six times and don't have their first bye until round 10. It's a run of games which will dictate whether or not the defending champions win a third successive title for the second time in their history and while rugby fans here and around the rest of the world will be looking forward to the nearly weekly derbies, Robertson had one word for it: brutal.

"It's a brutal start for us," he said after watching his side cling on against the Blues at Eden Park. "It was critical that the boys really cared and played hard."

Next Saturday the Crusaders host the Hurricanes in Christchurch and will have to do so without All Blacks prop Tim Perry, who broke an arm in his team's 24-22 victory.


Perry's injury, which is likely to keep him out for a couple of months at least, was the most obvious collateral damage of the Crusaders' 16th successive victory in this competition, a record-equalling streak they first did back in 2005-06.

The Crusaders are well-served in terms of loosehead props, but an injury to Joe Moody, who has had more than his share of bad luck over the past couple of years, would be extremely worrying.

There will be some extremely tired and sore bodies among Robertson's team after this match, especially among those All Blacks such as the excellent Scott Barrett who played 80 minutes despite not playing a minute in pre-season.

"They held on to the ball at the start of the game for long periods and our big forwards made so many tackles," Robertson said of the Blues attack in the first half. "They were shattered and I think that was reflected in how the scrums went. We went to the bench early and we needed to.

"They were brutal around the breakdown – Tom Coventry has done a great job there… it just shows the extra edge they've got."

There was a bit for Robertson to like at Eden Park – the way his players defended, especially in the first half, and how they worked to strike back straight away after conceding the lead after the break.

But there is plenty to work on, too; not least the need to stay onside and to back-off a little when under a referee's warning. Replacement hooker Ben Funnell was yellow carded during the crucial final quarter when trying to win the ball at a breakdown, a risky move when his side were already under Nick Briant's spotlight.

"For us to get that win away… you feel for Harry [Plummer], the young fella on debut. He missed a couple and that's tough. For ourselves, we need to be much more disciplined. We were poor at times."


The Crusaders will be better for this next week, but so will the Hurricanes, who endured a similarly dramatic finish during their 20-19 victory over the Waratahs in Sydney which was achieved after the normally accurate Bernard Foley missed a penalty from in front at the death.