You got the sense coach Scott Robertson was content banking the four competition points and moving on, after his side's 25-12 win over the Reds in Brisbane on Friday.

And given his squad's and ever-increasing list of injury woes, who could blame him?

With 16 first-choice players unavailable due to injury, the Crusaders made the most of what they had at Suncorp Stadium, which proved sufficient to get past the struggling Queenslanders.

Robertson was quick to credit the host of relative rookies who have admirably filled some of big boots in the starting XV, making particular mention of teenage halfback Noah Hotham and lock Jamie Hannah, who impressed after being promoted from the academy side.

"It was important for us to trust the young group and they really performed," said Robertson after the game.

"There's some young guys - under five or 10 games - playing tonight and they were awesome, just trusting them to go out and play.

"There wasn't a lot of combinations and cohesion going on but we're getting the job done, so that's extremely pleasing."

While the Crusaders never really hit top gear, the result was seldom in doubt. The defending champions edged to a 15-0 lead before their opponents finally troubled the scorers in the 32nd minute.

In the 54th minute, replacement halfback Willi Heinz snuck over from close range to extend their advantage to 22-7, and the disjointed contest meandered to a indisciplined conclusion from there, as the Crusaders conceded eight penalties in the final quarter.

Nevertheless, the third consecutive win moves the Crusaders up into provisional third place in the Super Rugby standings and - after last weekend's statement against the Blues - adds valuable momentum to their title defence, which began in uncharacteristically shaky fashion.

"We felt there were a lot of opportunities we didn't take," Robertson noted.

"We were ill disciplined and it compounded on us. The game never really go going, never really flowed

"But we got there. We'll do some reflection on Monday and move on and be happy with the result but probably not the performance."

The southerners' casualty list looks likely to extend to 17, with All Blacks prop George Bower limping off the field late in the dying moments with a knee injury. 

He'll undergo further tests to determine the exact nature of his injury and his recovery timeframe.

With his squad stretched to the brink, Robertson admitted they needed to continue to have faith in their depth and "next man up" mentality.

"You know it's not going to be perfect but you've just got to make sure that you're [trending upwards] at the end of the season," he said.

"We've got a saying 'always ready', and it doesn't matter if it's moments before kickoff or if you've got the whole week - you're ready.

"We've prided ourselves over a long period of time to get the guys ready to perform, and they showed some incredible efforts tonight."

They'll try to record a fourth-straight win against cellar dwellars Moana Pasifika in Christchurch on Friday.

2023-03-31T23:38:41Z dg43tfdfdgfd