The Crusaders were made to work hard for a 22-12 win over a determined Reds side in Brisbane on Saturday.
The Crusaders have extended their winning streak to 18 and it was a record eighth straight win on the road for the two-time defending champions, who outscored the Reds by four tries to two.
The defending champions scored a quick double – through Braydon Ennor and Will Jordan – in the sixth and eighth minutes to race into a 10-0 lead.
The Reds worked their way back to trail 7-10 at the break.
However, second-half tries by Whetu Douglas and Jordan Taufua sealed the deal in a scrappy affair.
A late consolation score by Scott Higginbotham denied the Crusaders a try-scoring bonus point.
The back-to-back defending champions dictated play, holding 60 percent of possession and making 46 fewer tackles as they repeatedly won the battle of the breakdown.
The Reds were defiant, but that workload eventually told as Scott Robertson’s side powered away with four tries to two in front of 17,676 fans.
Brad Thorn’s side battled hard but their typically solid scrum and line-out was shown up while they lacked patience with ball in hand.
A first-half foot injury to Jordan Petaia could also prove cause for concern, while Lukhan Salakaia-Loto’s second-half yellow card for offside only made it harder.
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Fullback Bryce Hegarty, who was tasked with much of the playmaking duties, also battled on despite popping out a rib in the first half.
Twice in the second half the Crusaders pushed over from close-range line-outs to seal the contest, with the first of those coming via Whetu Douglas following a 22-phase sequence.
Scott Higginbotham came off the bench to score late for the Reds and they threatened to add a third in the match’s final moments.
But the host’s chances of a comeback had earlier been thwarted when JP Smith was penalised for the slightest of obstructions as Liam Wright strolled through for a disallowed try with 10 minutes to play.
Queensland made almost double the tackles of the visitors in the first half and did well to hang on after trailing 10-0 nine minutes in.
Man of the match: It was the big men up front who did the hard work – the likes of Joe Moody, Owen Franks, Scott Barrett and Quinten Strange. Our award goes to Crusaders No.8 Whetukamokamo Douglas – who had plenty of carries and some good metres with ball in hand. He was also among the top defenders.
For the Reds:
Tries: Kerevi, Higginbotham
For the Crusaders:
Tries: Jordan, Ennor, Douglas, Taufua
Yellow card: Lukhan Salakaia-Loto (Reds, 53 – cynical foul, offside)
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