Christchurch - All Blacks winger Zac Guildford scored his first try for the Crusaders to help them to a 32-17 victory over the Highlanders in a Super 14 clash in Christchurch on Saturday.
Guildford, who moved from the Hurricanes in the off-season, finished off a superb counter-attack with seven minutes remaining after Highlanders replacement flyhalf Michael Hobbs had brought his side back into the game.
Hobbs came on for the injured Matt Berquist at halftime and scored two tries, converted both and added a penalty as the Highlanders fought back from a 10-0 deficit to trail 18-17 with 13 minutes remaining.
Andy Ellis, Jared Payne and Sean Maitland scored the Crusaders other tries while flyhalf Daniel Carter, playing his first Super 14 match after missing last year's competition through injury, added two penalties and three conversions. "It was a really scrappy second half, they came back really tough and we had to dig deep to get that bonus point try at the end," Crusaders captain Kieran Read said in a televised interview.
"We will definitely take the win and the bonus point ... but we could have definitely held on to the ball better and there might have been a bit more reward at the end, but we're happy." The Crusaders dominated the first half but only managed a Carter penalty and Ellis's converted try as the Highlanders stout defensive line continually repelled them.
Payne scored the home side's second try early in the second half, though it was not awarded until referee Chris Pollock confirmed it had cannoned off the right wing's knee rather than been knocked on.
Hobbs scored and converted the first of his two tries before Carter added his second penalty.
Hobbs then repeated the dose when he bullocked over from in close after a superb run from lock Josh Bekhuis and, when he subsequently slotted a penalty, the deficit was reduced to one point.
Guidlford, however, ended the Highlanders' resistance before replacement winger Maitland secured the bonus point in the final minute as the visitors attempted to launch an attack from inside their own 22.