Despite his men picking up a fourth win last night to remain undefeated in trans-Tasman Super Rugby this season, Crusaders coach Scott Robertson is ruing moments he feels could cost them a spot in the final.
Despite the 29-21 win in Christchurch, the Crusaders were denied a crucial bonus point in the standings by the Western Force, leaving them one point behind the Blues and just three points ahead of Hurricanes who could pick up four or five points tonight with victory over the winless Brumbies.
"The boys will be disappointed," Robertson said. "We were here to do one job, to get the win plus the bonus.
"It wasn't our finest performance. We wanted to be really disciplined and we weren't in a lot of areas.
"Well done to the Force. They came here and put some effort in and showed what it takes to put us under pressure."
Robertson admitted spots in the finals could come down to bonus points.
"That could be the comp," Robertson said. "Pretty quickly, it can change.
"We knew it was going to be a points race just as much as a normal competition ... it's not top four, it's top two, and it's just how many you can mount up.
"A little bit out of our hands now. We'll be watching, just like everyone else."
The way the Crusaders were denied their bonus point stung Robertson too with the Force capitalising on a turnover after a lengthy period of pressure from the Canterbury team.
The ball made its way to Force substitute Jordan Olowofela in the dying stages and with plenty of space around him, he went on to score.
"We were calling from the box, get back there Joshy [McKay], or whoever it was," Robertson recalls.
"Just get back there and cover the back field. They just saw space and took it.
"We defended so doggedly for long periods of time and then that quick turnover and bang, that was it.
"It was a great turnover and obviously they stayed in the fight. But we could've been better with our game management."
For the Crusaders to earn a spot now, they'll need either the Force to take down the Blues next week or for the Brumbies or Reds to get one over the Hurricanes — results Robertson said could easily happen despite the fact Australian franchises have only won one single match against New Zealand opposition so far this year.
"They're good quality teams and anything can happen on the night, but we just would've liked to have kept it in our hands," Robertson said.