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Crusaders beat Highlanders 31-13 in Super Rugby

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) Defending champions the Crusaders beat South Island rivals the Highlanders 33-13 in Super Rugby on Friday but again produced a performance well below their best.

The Christchurch-based Crusaders, now 3-1 before their first bye of the season, scored four tries to lead 26-8 at halftime, then managed only a try apiece with the Dunedin-based Highlanders in a less dominant second half performance.

The Crusaders' first half tries were mainly opportunist or against the run of play. They were stronger than the Highlanders at set pieces but exerted no control over the match and were frequently stretched in defense.

"The 'Landers are a quality side and we had to keep them out in that last 20 minutes," Crusaders captain David Havili said. "We talked about getting our rhythm right this weekend and we got a wee bit of that throughout the game and I felt we nailed it at stages."

The Crusaders produced moments of exceptional rugby from players such as winger George Bridge and centers Braydon Ennor and Jack Goodhue. But they again fell short of a complete performance. The return of their full All Blacks complement later in the season will likely boost their form.

Highlanders scored the first points of the match from a penalty but the Crusaders scored the first try through Taylor in the 14th minute.

Flanker Tom Christie expanded the Crusaders' lead in the 20th minute before the Highlanders cut their margin with a try to winger Michael Collins.

A fortunate try to center Braydon Ennor made the lead 19-8 and Bridge scored off a Highlanders error to complete the 26-8 halftime margin.

The Highlanders scored first in the second half but the Crusaders replied with a try to Sione Havili which clinched their win.


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Updated February 21, 2020