Hooker Codie Taylor scored the opening try of the 2021 season as holders Crusaders came out on top in Dunedin.
The Crusaders made a winning start to their Super Rugby Aotearoa title defence, holding off the Highlanders to triumph 26-13 on Friday.
All Blacks hooker Codie Taylor scored the opening try of the 2021 season as Crusaders crossed four times in total at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, though they were made to work hard for victory.
After Taylor touched down in the 13th minute, Bryn Hall followed suit soon after as the reigning champions quickly eased into a 14-0 lead, Richie Mo'unga landing both conversion attempts.
However, Highlanders hit back to close the gap to four at the break. Shannon Frizell got their first points with a try, while Connor Garden-Bachop finished off a flowing move just before half-time.
Mitch Hunt was on target with a penalty in the 43rd minute to reduce the deficit to just a solitary point, yet the home team were unable to edge ahead as Crusaders shut them out for the remainder of the contest.
Sevu Reece crucially crashed over to make it 19-13, while replacement hooker Brodie McAlister sealed victory from a lineout drive with six minutes remaining.
Mo'unga slotted over his third conversion as Crusaders were able to celebrate a successful start to their campaign, even though they finished with 14 men following a late yellow card for Scott Barrett.