The Safeguard Global ACT Brumbies have fallen to the Crusaders in Christchurch 35-17 in what is Stephen Larkham's side first defeat of the 2023 Harvey Norman Super Rugby Pacific season.
Crusaders winger Leicester Fainga'anuku's double was the telling blow in the physical encounter, Corey Toole's try off a pinpoint pass from backrower Rory Scott the highlight of the Brumbies evening.
The home side shot out of the traps, building pressure with quick ball and brutal physicality, though the Brumbies would open the scoring through the boot of Ryan Lonergan.
The lead lasted mere moments, as Fainga'anuku crashed through for his first of the night. Richie Mo'unga, who played an understated but pivotal role in the win, kicked the first of his five goals to make it 7-0.
Pressure continued to build, and a deft kick from Pepesana Patafilo for Breydon Ennor gave the Crusaders a two-try cushion.
The Brumbies found their feet, and grew into the contest but on the stroke of halftime, the champions showed their steel, rolling over for a late score. Mo'unga converted to make it 21-3 as the sides headed to the sheds.
Lonergan would give the Brumbies a foothold in the contest in the second 40, but the Crusaders continued to push the pace, and Fainga'anuku couldn't be stopped from grabbing his second try.
Toole's blazing effort brought the Brumbies back to within touching distance, but a late try from Christian Lio-Willie put the game to bed, the final score 35-17.
Safeguard Global ACT Brumbies head coach, Stephen Larkham said: "Overall, we're disappointed with our performance but I'm pleased we were able to grow into the game and we'll learn plenty from tonight."
"Games against quality opposition are about fine margins and they edged us their tonight but we know what we need to fix up this week with a big game at home against the Waratahs to look forward to."
Safeguard Global ACT Brumbies 17 (3) (T: R.Lonergan, Toole; C: Lonergan 2; P: Lonergan) def by Crusaders 35 (21)