Crusaders in crisis after losing third match in a row as Drua shock champions

Crusaders coach Rob Penney during a post-match interview

Crusaders coach Rob Penney is already under pressure after losing three matches on the trot in Super Rugby. Picture: DJ Mills / AFP

Published Mar 9, 2024


The Crusaders were stunned 20-10 by Fijian Drua on Saturday to equal their worst start to a Super Rugby season while the Wellington Hurricanes remained unbeaten with a win over the Auckland Blues.

The seven-time defending champion Crusaders fell away in the second half in Lautoka to make it three losses in three games under new head coach Rob Penney.

The only other time the powerhouse Christchurch-based side have lost their three opening matches was the competition's inaugural season back in 1996.

Captain Scott Barrett said the humid conditions in Fiji played a part in their error-ridden display, having led 10-0 at the 20-minute mark before the Drua took control.

"We just weren't sharp and clinical like we'd hope," Barrett said.

"We were clear on our game plan, it was pretty simple, but we just didn't execute."

The result piles more pressure on Penney, the replacement for Scott Robertson, who left to coach the New Zealand All Blacks after steering the Crusaders to the title in each of his seven seasons in charge.

Penney's side -- shorn of several injured or departed All Blacks -- opened their Super Rugby Pacific season by losing to the Waikato Chiefs, then the New South Wales Waratahs before also going down to the Drua.

Fijian-born Crusaders winger Sevu Reece put his side ahead with an early try but the scores were level 10-10 at halftime following a try to Drua winger Selestino Ravutaumada.

Fiji scrum-half Frank Lomani crossed early in the second half and the home side held the upper hand for the remainder of the contest, completing the scoring with a late penalty goal slotted by fly-half Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula.

Hurricanes winger Josh Moorby scored two of their four tries in a 29-21 defeat of the Blues in a clash of two previously unbeaten New Zealand teams in Wellington.

Winger Kini Naholo crossed once and he burst through four would-be tacklers to set up the Hurricanes' final try, to Riley Higgins.

The Western Force joined the Crusaders as the only other winless team after going down 22-19 to the ACT Brumbies in Canberra.

The Force led 14-0 but conceded the next 22 points to a Brumbies side who have opened the season with two wins from three games.


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