Canterbury Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock had to think long and hard to find positives in their 17-13 win over ACT Brumbies in their Super Rugby match in Christchurch on Saturday.
The Crusaders started strongly, with their forwards rolling over a struggling Brumbies eight and a long-cut out pass by Israel Dagg putting new recruit Seta Tamanivalu in for a try inside the first four minutes.
But although they continued to dominate for most of the game, the points did not come they ended up struggling to hold out a late surge by the Australians.
If there was one bright spot for the Crusaders, the most successful side in the history of the competition, it was that they finished with a win when they have a history of being slow starters to the season.
"It's great. We've started the season on the right foot rather than playing catch up next week," Whitelock said looking on the bright side before analysing why the score was as close as it was.
"We were pretty excited and probably pushed the pass a bit too much. But we looked really good when we held on to it and made good decisions."
Brumbies leader Sam Carter said a pre-season focus on defence paid off for his side.
"It's something we pride ourselves on and we've been training hard over the last three months," he said.
"We hung in there for 80 minutes but just couldn't get over the line. There's only one way to go from here."
The Crusaders led 12-3 at half-time with Dagg, celebrating his 100th Super match, beating his man to set up their second try by backrower Whetu Douglas.
But the homeside went off the boil in the second half as Scott Fardy led a series of Brumbies raids deep into Crusaders territory.
A Rory Arnold try converted by Wharenui Hawera, who also kicked a first half penalty, closed the gap to two points three minutes into the second half.
The Crusaders replied with a pushover try to Pete Samu before Hawera added his second penalty to set a four-point margin which neither side was able to change in the final 15 minutes.