The Canterbury Crusaders exacted revenge in their grudge match against reigning champions Queensland Reds with a hard-fought 15-11 victory Sunday.
The win in Christchurch lifted the Crusaders to fifth on the ladder with 37 points, seven astray of leaders Waikato Chiefs, while the Reds languish on 26.
The Reds scored the only try of the match with hooker James Hanson dotting down in the first minute while the Crusaders were forced to rely on the boot of fly-half Tom Taylor who kicked five penalties.
With Wallabies coach Robbie Deans in the stand, the Reds frustrated the Crusaders and forced them into multiple handling errors with a fast closing defensive line.
Scott Higginbotham also led a committed forward pack that entered the breakdown in numbers to bully the Crusaders.
"We're just happy to scrape away with a win. We needed it to continue our momentum," a relieved Crusaders captain Kieran Read said.
"The performance wasn't there but I guess it's character. Credit to the boys that we hung in there and got the result."
Where the Crusaders won the match was an ability to carve off huge territory either from playing wide or from the boot of Andy Ellis and an All Blacks-stacked forward pack who won crucial penalties at scrum time.
The overall penalty count favoured the Crusaders 17-7, which Reds' skipper James Horwill pointed to as their problem area.
"We did some really good things and then we did some really silly things and in the end that's what hurt us."
In an uncompromising encounter with two sides fired with intent, the Crusaders wanted revenge after the 18-13 finals loss last year while the Reds wanted to prove themselves champions and also be the first Australian side to beat the Crusaders at home since 2004.
They made the ideal start with the immediate try to Hanson from turnover ball when the Reds kicked off and James Slipper charged down Ellis's attempted clearing kick.
The Crusaders picked up two penalties for Taylor to kick them into the lead but it was the Reds who were playing the smarter rugby and their scrum weakness cost them a second try on the stroke of half-time.
They turned down a penalty shot at goal but from an ensuing scrum on the Crusaders' line they were shunted into submission and gave away possession.
The Reds did regain the initiative two minutes into the second half when Mike Harris, who missed two shots at goal in the first spell, landed a penalty.
The Crusaders responded by unleashing Richie McCaw off the bench and he immediately teamed with Corey Flynn to drive the ball up to the Reds' line where they won a penalty for Taylor to add three points.
But the Crusaders were unable to score tries with their best effort coming off a Dan Carter break which ended with Zac Guildford forced out in the corner.
A shoulder charge by replacement prop Wyatt Crockett gave Harris a second successful shot at goal to put the Reds up 11-9 before Taylor punished the visitors with two more penalties in the closing 10 minutes.© ANP/AFP