The Highlanders have lost their eighth game of the season, 24-8, against a determined Crusaders side tonight. Playing well in patches, although ultimately getting pushed around too much at scrum time and failing to make the most of opportunities.
The Crusaders spent much of the opening quarter camped inside the Highlanders 22m, although a yellow card to Owen Franks for throwing a punch at Jarrad Hoeata halted their progress. The Highlanders failed to make use of the advantage however, Tyler Bleyendaal eventually grabbing a penalty to give the home side the lead.
Hayden Parker was given the chance to draw the scores level in the 21st minute, unluckily missing a difficult shot at goal.
Bleyendaal added a couple more penalties as the Crusaders continued to spend a lot of time inside the Highlanders half, before Robbie Fruean added to the Highlanders misery when he touched down for a try just out from halftime.  Bleyendaal added the conversion to give the Crusaders a 16-0 lead at halftime.
The Highlanders started the second spell with added enthusiasm, wasting little time in getting close to the opposition tryline. Constant pressure on the Crusaders line allowed Jason Emery to help himself to his first try in Super Rugby, Parker hitting the posts with his conversion attempt.
The Highlanders continued to try things, although a committed Crusaders defence mixed with problems in the lineouts and scrums, made it hard for the visitors to add any advantage. The Crusaders eventually stretching their lead to 19-5, thanks to another Bleyendaal penalty.
Colin Slade came on to replace Hayden Parker for the remaining quarter, adding an instant spark with a cheeky cross-field kick, before closing the gap to 8-19 shortly after through a penalty goal.
The remainder of the match was reduced to a forwards game as scrum resets began to dominate proceedings. Tom Taylor went on to seal the win for the Crusaders with a try five minutes out from fulltime, Bleyendaal missed the conversion but the win was all but assured for the home side.
TJ Ioane again showed his class at this level, while Ben Smith was solid as ever at fullback. Debutant Tony Ensor had a quite night at wing, although he got himself involved later in the match and can be happy with his first outing.
Crusaders 24 (Robbie Fruean, Tom Taylor tries; Tyler Bleyendaal Conversion, 4 Penalties)
Highlanders 8 (Jason Emery Try; Colin Slade Penalty)

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