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Crusaders continue mid-season revival, beat Brumbies 40-20 in Super Rugby

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CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand - Crusaders flyhalf Colin Slade kicked a conversion and seven penalties for 23 points to lead his team to a 40-20 win over the ACT Brumbies on Saturday and continue the Christchurch-based team's form surge in the mid part of the Super Rugby season.

Slade booted the Crusaders to a 22-6 halftime lead with five penalties and the conversion of a try to winger Johnny McNicholl, scored just after the half-time siren.

He had his first miss in eight attempts trying to convert a 52nd minute try to giant Fijiian winger Nemani Nadolo, and also missed another penalty but finished with eight goals from 10 attempts.

The Brumbies started the match in second place and the Crusaders in eighth but the hosts dominated, and capitalized on errors and indiscipline from the Brumbies, who have not won in Christchurch in 14 years.

The visitors struggled in heavy underfoot conditions which made expansive play difficult and their all-international front row was beaten in the scrums. They scored the first try of the second half through hooker Stephen Moore, cutting the deficit to 22-13 but the home side reasserted itself with another penalty to Slade and Nemani's try.

A further goal to Slade and late try to Luke Whitelock, converted from the sideline by replacement flyhalf Willi Heinz — a scrumhalf playing out of position — clinched a convincing win.

"We know they're a very good defensive side, they don't allow many points per game, so to create that quick ball really allowed us to play and it was pleasing to score those points," Crusaders captain Ryan Crotty said.

The Crusaders suffered three early injury blows and finished with a makeshift backline. Flanker Matt Todd left early with a calf injury, centre Keiron Fonotia departed shortly after with a hamstring strain and Tom Taylor — Fonotia's replacement — followed quickly with a head knock.

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, returning from injury to play his first match in six weeks, got through all 80 minutes.

The Brumbies got a late consolation try from Pat McCabe but were outplayed.

"Early on they took good momentum on the scoreboard and had us chasing," Brumbies captain Ben Mowen said.

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Crusaders 40 (Johnny McNicholl, Nemani Nadolo, Luke Whitelock tries; Colin Slade conversion, 7 penalties; Willi Heinz conversion), ACT Brumbies 20 (Stephen Moore, Pat McCabe tries; Nic White 2 penalties; Christian Lealiifano 2 conversions). HT: 22-6.

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