The Crusaders started the defence of their Super Rugby title with a 45-23 bonus-point win over the Chiefs, while the Waratahs snatched a last-gasp victory and the Brumbies also triumphed on Saturday.
In August, Crusaders were crowned champions for the first time since 2008 and set about trying to claim back-to-back titles with a success at AMI Stadium.
Scott Robertson’s side outscored their New Zealand rivals by seven tries to two, finishing strongly after Chiefs led 20-19 midway through the second half.
The champions led 19-3 following five-pointers from Matt Todd, Richie Mo’unga and Jordan Taufua, but Dave Rennie’s men cut the gap to only two points at half-time courtesy of scores from Sam Cane and Solomona Alaimalo.
Damian McKenzie’s second penalty edged Chiefs in front, but captain Sam Whitelock charged over to put Crusaders back in the lead and they were given breathing space when a penalty try was awarded after Ryan Crotty was taken out by a high tackle when diving for the corner.
Intercept tries from George Bridge and Manasa Mataele late on put Crusaders out of sight.
— BNZ Crusaders (@crusadersrugby) February 24, 2018
Ned Hanigan scored the decisive try after the hooter as Waratahs beat Stormers 34-27 at Allianz Stadium.
The two sides were locked at 17-17 at the break and there was still nothing to choose between them until Waratahs turned the ball over at a lineout and Hanigan went over to raise the roof, Bernard Foley converting to stay perfect from the tee and finish with 14 points.
Brumbies got the better of the Sunwolves, but had to come from behind to win 32-25 in Dan McKellar’s first game in charge at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium.
Tom Banks, Tevita Kuridrani, Kyle Godwin, Josh Mann-Rea and Lachlan McCaffrey scored the Brumbies tries, with Hosea Saumaki claiming a double for the Japanese side.
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