Five-try Crusaders bounce back in style as Bristol Bears downed in front of 18,302 fans

Adam Kyriacou
Levi Aumua in action for Crusaders.

Levi Aumua in action for Crusaders.

The Crusaders finished their northern hemisphere tour on a positive note as the tourists defeated Bristol Bears 31-14 in front of 18,302 supporters on Friday night.

Tries from Macca Springer (2), Levi Aumua (2) and Noah Hotham saw them to victory, with Rivez Reihana and Taha Kemara contributing points off the tee at Ashton Gate.

Fred Davies and Kieran Marmion would get Bristol‘s tries, which were converted by AJ MacGinty, as the hosts were well beaten in the end by the Super Rugby Pacific holders.

One loss, one win on tour

The Crusaders came into the match on the back of a 21-19 negative to United Rugby Championship holders Munster in front of over 40,000 supporters at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

It took until the 27th minute of the fixture for the first points to be put on the board and it came via Bristol when hooker Davies went over thanks to a lineout pushover for 7-0.

However, the New Zealanders hit back before the break when wing Springer crossed in the corner before Reihana added the extras to lock up the scoreline at the turnaround.

Springer completed his brace in the 52nd minute when he collected a pinpoint kick before finishing, with Reihana again firing over the two points to make it a 14-7 lead.

But it didn’t take long for the Bears to respond as a break from centre James Williams led to scrum-half Marmion crossing before MacGinty levelled the scores at 14 apiece.

The back and forth continued in Bristol when replacement Aumua powered over from close range before the centre crossed again soon after to move the visitors 26-14 up.

Rob Penney’s side added one further score before the end when another replacement, Hotham, crossed the whitewash to put the seal on an impressive second-half showing.

The Crusaders will now travel home ahead of their final pre-season fixture ahead of Super Rugby Pacific 2024, against the Highlanders at Methven Recreational Reserve.

The reigning champions kick off their regular season schedule away to the Chiefs on Friday, February 23 in their first campaign since the departure of boss Scott Robertson.

For Bristol Bears they will be back in Premiership action on Friday, March 22 against Northampton Saints, hoping to make a late push for the hotly contested play-off spots.

The teams

Bristol Bears: 15 Rich Lane, 14 Noah Heward, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 James Williams, 11 Siva Naulago, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Harry Randall, 8 Magnus Bradbury, 7 Fitz Harding, 6 Joe Owen, 5 Joe Batley, 4 Steven Luatua, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Fred Davies, 1 Sam Grahamslaw
Replacements: 16 Tomas Gwilliam, 17 Andrew Turner, 18 Jonny Benz-Salomon, 19 Ed Holmes, 20 Paddy Pearce, 21 Dan Thomas, 22 Kieran Marmion, 23 Sam Worsley, 24 Kalaveti Ravouvou, 25 Virimi Vakatawa, 26 Gabriel Ibitoye

Crusaders: 15 Chay Fihaki, 14 Manasa Mataele, 13 Jone Rova, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Macca Springer, 10 Rivez Reihana, 9 Willi Heinz (c), 8 Christian Lio-Willie, 7 Corey Kellow, 6 Dominic Gardiner, 5 Jamie Hannah, 4 Quinten Strange, 3 Seb Calder, 2 George Bell, 1 Kershawl Sykes-Martin
Replacements: 16 Ioane Moananu, 17 George Bower, 18 Ryan Coxon, 19 Antonio Shalfoon, 20 Fletcher Anderson, 21 Noah Hotham, 22 Taha Kemara, 23 Levi Aumua, 24 Taine Robinson, 25 Jack Gray, 26 Gus Brown

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