When the final whistle brought an end to the Crusaders' match against the Brumbies in Christchurch on Saturday night, the hosts were able to breathe a sigh of relief.
Leading 31-17 with 14 minutes to go, the result looked a formality. Instead, the Brumbies fought back and had a conversion to tie the game on the hooter. Brumbies first five-eighth Noah Lolesio was unable to convert, and the Crusaders got the points.
It was the end to a strange night for the Crusaders, who struggled to find any rhythm in their play – be it open play or at the set piece.
"I thought we played some great footy, and also some pretty average footy for our standards," Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said. "We created opportunities and last passes didn't stick, discipline stuff. We knew they were going to be tough; we just couldn't put them away.
"That first half, there was 20 reset scrums, we turned a lot of ball over, gave away a few penalties, but played great footy in there. We couldn't quite get a rhythm or throw a knockout punch or get a connection. So, a mixed bag and mixed feelings."
The Crusaders turned the ball over 14 times to the Brumbies' 12, and committed 16 penalties to the Brumbies' 11, and both sides struggled around the set piece.
An area that had been a strong component of the Crusaders' successful Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign, constant resets at the scrum were among several factors that didn't allow the game to have any sort of flow.
"We haven't collapsed a scrum all year, I don't think," Robertson said.
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"For us, with different styles and a different set-up, we built a lot of pressure, earn a scrum then get penalised against you, you're back down the field and put in a corner.
"The boys admitted they were a little bit frustrated; we were all a little bit frustrated and that just didn't allow us to get our rhythm. But in saying that, 31-17, five tries to two with 14 minutes to go, we were still in a position to take the five points, then all of a sudden we're looking down the barrel of a draw."
Coming away with four points, the Crusaders will now turn their attention to a clash with the Australian champion Reds in Brisbane on Saturday.
The side could be without flanker Tom Sanders for the game, who was forced from the field against the Brumbies after breaking his nose and subsequently failing a head injury assessment, Robertson said.
"I think we learnt a lot from the Brumbies that will help us next week," he said.
"It's good to get on tour, get over to Brissy, see all the cuzzies and brothers and sisters over there that a lot of the boys have got, and also getting down to Coogee Bay and spend a couple of weeks on tour. It's been a while, so we're excited about that, but we know it's going to be a hell of a game."