AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — The Christchurch-based Crusaders were awarded two penalty tries as they opened their defense of the Super Rugby title Saturday with a 24-22 win over the Auckland-based Blues.
The first penalty try came in the 25th minute when the Blues collapsed a Crusaders maul on their own line and backrower Tom Robinson was also sin-binned.
The second came in the 59th minute from a scrum near the Blues' goal line and gave the Crusaders a seven-point lead at 24-17 after the teams were locked at 17-17 midway through the second half.
The Blues cut the lead to two points with a try to scrumhalf Augustine Pulu with two minutes remaining but Blues goakicker Harry Plummer missed the conversion of that try, which would have tied the scores, and a long range penalty which would have given the Blues a one-point lead.
The Crusaders led 12-3 at the end of a dominant first half in which winger Manasa Mataele scored the first of his two tries.
The Blues were much stronger in the second half and snatched the lead with tries to Akira Ioane and Ofa Tu'ungafasi.
But Mataele's second try tied the scores before the Crusaders second penalty try gave them a winning margin.
"Coming up here we knew the Blues had been very good pre-season and had a lot of attacking weapons," Crusaders captain Matt Todd said. "So we knew we were in for a game."
Meanwhile, the playing future of Wallabies backrower David Pocock may be in doubt after he suffered a head injury during the ACT Brumbies 34-27 loss to the Melbourne Rebels on Friday.
Pocock lasted only five minutes before suffering the injury in an accidental collision with his own teammate, winger Dane Haylett-Perry.
Pocock has recently been plagued by head and neck injuries and is almost certain to miss the Brumbies' second round match against the Chiefs. He missed Australia's test against England last November after a similar injury.
"He failed his HIA (head injury assessment), so there is a concussion there," Brumbies head coach Dan McKellar said. "He's obviously had a concussion on the spring tour as well so we'll just do what's in the best interest of Dave."
Earlier, the Dunedin-based Highlanders rallied with only 14 men to beat the Hamilton-based Chiefs 30-27.
The Highlanders trailed 24-13 in the second half and were reduced to 14 men when replacement Sio Tomkinson was shown a red card with 13 minutes remaining. But they clawed their way back into the match and snatched the win with a late try to scrumhalf Aaron Smith.
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