NOTE: Additional reporting by AFP Super Rugby highlights appear courtesy of SANZAAR.
The Canterbury Crusaders produced a second-half surge as they returned to their Christchurch base for the first time since a gunman killed 50 Muslim worshippers with a 36-14 victory over the ACT Brumbies.
The Brumbies had an unlikely 7-0 lead at half-time in the Super Rugby clash, but from the restart the defending champions took control and ran away with five tries in the second half.
The massacre by an avowed white supremacist has forced the Canterbury club to rethink its branding given the link to the medieval Crusades, and the familiar sword-wielding knights on horseback have been dropped from the pre-match entertainment.
But they retained their familiar ability to find an extra gear when under pressure to retain their position at the head of the table.
The penalties that blighted their first half — when they conceded eight — disappeared and they found the precision that was missing from their early play.
Captain Matt Todd said the first-half discipline “was not good enough. They put us under a lot of pressure but we responded which was good.
“We were confident if we held the ball we could get points in the second half.”
The Brumbies, missing injured Wallaby flanker David Pocock and resting three other Wallaby forwards in Rory Arnold, Scott Sio and Folau Fainga’a, had a game plan to rattle the Crusaders.
It worked in the first half as they attacked from all angles and worked their way to score the only points in the first half with a converted try by Christian Lealiifano.
Owen Franks, who led the Crusaders on to the field to mark his 150th game with the club, was yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle and the Brumbies cashed in by taking a scrum instead of a close-range penalty and running the ball until a gap opened up.
But the second 40 minutes was a different story, starting with a try to left wing Sevu Reece three minutes after the restart.
Right wing Will Jordan then bagged a double with his first try scored in a head-high tackle which saw his opposite Toni Pulu sent to the sin bin.
Pulu had no sooner returned to the field than the Brumbies lost Sam Carter for 10 minutes for a head-high tackle on the Crusaders backline general Ryan Crotty.
In Carter’s absence Jordan Taufua and Reece scored further tries for the Crusaders to ensure the bonus point before Tevita Kuridrani scored a late consolation try for the visitors.