Since sneaking out of the first round of Super Rugby Transtasman with a two-point win against the Brumbies, the Crusaders have been chasing the competition.
With the transtasman tournament pitting New Zealand against Australia, and most Kiwi teams earning five points from each encounter, the Crusaders only coming away with four points in the opening round immediately put them on the back foot on the road to the final.
That hasn't changed through three rounds, as they still remain a bonus point behind the Hurricanes and Blues – both of whom have taken the maximum five points from every match so far.
Because the Kiwi teams won't play each other before the final, the Crusaders aren't able to take points off their rivals in the hunt for the title. Instead, they can only do their part to win convincingly and add to their tally, while hoping their compatriots slip up – like the Chiefs did against the Reds.
But while that situation lends itself to some entertaining, free-running rugby, it does present other issues, as the Crusaders 54-28 win over the Waratahs showed.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
"I think we got a bit loose at times trying to chase points and tries for this competition," Crusaders captain Scott Barrett said after the match, and his thoughts were backed up by coach Scott Robertson.
"I like the 54 [points scored], but no one is really happy with the 28. It's been 29, 28, 28 the last three weeks, after building phases and scoreboard pressure," Robertson said. "On the back of probably being a bit sloppy in our own half after scoring tries, it cost us.
"It's a bit of a points race, isn't it? We were happy but a little bit frustrated."
While the Crusaders earned their bonus point for scoring at least three more tries than Waratahs, leaking points has continued to be an issue for the team during the campaign.
While they have scored the most points of any team (148), they have also conceded the most of any Kiwi team (85), with their +63 points difference also needing a boost to keep pace with the front-running Blues (+102) and Hurricanes (+75).