The Crusaders defeated the Highlanders 28-15 in their Super Rugby warm-up match in Motueka on Friday.
The 21-3 half-time score was too difficult to overcome for the Highlanders, but Jamie Joseph’s men made a valiant effort.
All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg was the first to score for the Crusaders, with flyhalf Tyler Bleyendaal kicking the conversion. Scrumhalf Andy Ellis and left wing Nafi Tuitavake then also crossed the line.
The Highlanders chipped away at the Crusaders’ lead with a penalty, but replacement Kieron Fonotia made it far more difficult by scoring another try for the men from Christchurch, with Colin Slade converting.
Replacement Ged Robinson and left wing Malakai Fekitoa finally crossed the Crusaders' line, but it was too late.
Crusaders – Tries: Israel Dagg, Andy Ellis, Nafi Tuitavake, Kieron Fonotia. Conversions: Tyler Bleyendaal (3), Colin Slade.
Highlanders – Tries: Ged Robinson, Malakai Fekitoa. Conversion: Ripia. Penalty: Willie Ripia.
Crusaders – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Rob Thompson, 13 Reynold Lee-Lo, 12 Ryan Crotty (c), 11 Nafi Tuitavake, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Jordan Taufua, 7 Jed Brown, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Dominic Bird, 4 Luke Romano, 3, Nepo Laulala, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Tim Perry.
Subs: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Owen Franks, 19 Joel Everson, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Colin Slade, 23 Kieron Fonotia, Samuel Whitelock, Tom Taylor, Adam Whitelock, Zac Guildford, Mitchell Drummond, Corey Flynn, Daniel Lienert Brown.
Highlanders – 15 Kurt Baker, 14 Patrick Osborne, 13 Jason Emery, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Malakai Fekitoa, 10 Willie Ripia, 9 Frae Wilson, 8 Elliot Dixon, 7 John Hardie, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Braydon Mitchell, 1 Chris King.
Subs: Not available
Photo: Martin Hunter/BackpagePix