SUPER RUGBY CRUSADERS REDS
Wayward goalkicking has cost the Queensland Reds dearly in a 24-20 loss to the Crusaders after threatening to halt one of the great Super Rugby streaks.
Accuracy off the tee proved the difference in Christchurch on Friday, with the understrength visitors enjoying the better of play and out-scoring the Crusaders four tries to three.
Richie Mo'unga slotted all of his four shots at goal for the winners while Reds goalkickers Jock Campbell, Scott Malolua and Bryce Hegarty combined to miss all four kickable conversions.
It left the Crusaders able to cling on and extend their competition-record home unbeaten run to 34 successive games.
Led by storming performances from forwards Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Harry Wilson and Taniela Tupou, the Reds had the better of the physical exchanges and looked well capable of lodging a first win in Christchurch since 1999.
Making their performance all the more remarkable was the absence of experienced trio James O'Connor, Tate McDermott and Izack Rodda, forcing Brad Thorn to field a very inexperienced side.
They more than matched the three-time defending champions in the first half, turning at 10-10 - boosted by tries to Chris Feauai-Sautia and Wilson - and with the hosts reduced to 14 men after No.8 Tom Sanders was shown a yellow card.
Joe Moody scored the Crusaders' lone first-half try but teammates George Bridge and Leicester Fainga'anuku seemed to make the outcome safe with quickfire tries after the break.
However, Tupou burrowed over before winger Henry Speight finished off a contender for team try of the year, completing a sweeping team move set up by a Wilson bust.
Reds captain Liam Wright refused to blame goalkicking for their fifth loss from six games.
"I see my guys doing all the extras after training, they're out there all the time long after we're in the sheds and putting that work in. It's not paying off just yet but I can't fault them for it," he told Sky TV.
"I'm incredibly proud. I asked my guys this week to step it up. There's no bigger challenge than the reigning champs in their home city."
A fourth win from five games looks good on paper for the Crusaders but skipper Scott Barrett wants them to lift their standards.
"It was a mixed bag. Certainly we created a few line breaks but we were ill-disciplined and tried to push too many passes," he said.
"Like any Australian team, they hung in there for the full 80 and the Reds, full credit to them, they threw everything at us."