The Crusaders' start to the Super Rugby Pacific season has gone from poor to unprecedented with their fourth straight loss, a 14-10 home defeat by the Wellington-based Hurricanes.

The 11-time champions hadn't lost three matches in a row at the start of season since 1996 before they lost to the Fijian Drua last weekend.

They had never lost four matches in succession before Friday, and there will be little respite when they face the Auckland-based Blues next weekend.

"We're trying really hard but it's just not sticking," Crusaders stand-in captain David Havili said.

"We gave ourselves a chance in the contest tonight, but we couldn't quite finish it off."

The Crusaders, who have been champions in the past seven seasons, produced their best performance so far in their first home match of the year.

They were outplayed all over the park by the Hurricanes, who won every statistic.

But after trailing 7-0 at halftime, the Crusaders rallied to lead 10-7 with 10 minutes remaining, only to see the match snatched away by the Hurricanes with a 79th-minute try.

The Hurricanes posted their fourth straight win, their best start for seven years, and stay atop the table.

They should have won much more easily than they did. A 14th-minute try to Tyrel Lomax looked likely to be the first of many for the Hurricanes, who dominated possession and time in the opposition 22.

But they were held out sometimes by poor option-taking or execution, but mostly by tenacious Crusaders defence.

The Hurricanes attacked relentlessly, but struggled to break down the Crusaders' defensive line.

The match was played in wet conditions and was ugly at times, with too-flat defences stifling attacking play.

The Crusaders didn't put together a coherent attack until the 52nd minute and scored a minute later through lock Cullen Grace. 

They then went ahead against the run of play with a penalty to new flyhalf Riley Hohepa.

The Crusaders also were without regular captain Scott Barrett, who is sidelined for four weeks with a broken finger.

Crusaders 10 [Try: Grace; Con: Hohepa; Pen: Hohepa]

Hurricanes 14 [Tries: Lomax, Sangster; Cons: Cameron 2]

Yellow cards: Jamie Hannah (Crusaders, 77′ – cynical play); Owen Franks (Crusaders, 81′ – foul play)

Crusaders: 15 Chay Fihaki, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Levi Aumua, 12 David Havili (captain), 11 Macca Springer, 10 Riley Hohepa, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Dominic Gardiner, 5 Zach Gallagher, 4 Quinten Strange, 3 Fletcher Newell, 2 George Bell, 1 George Bower.
Replacements: 16 Ioane Moananu, 17 Finlay Brewis, 18 Owen Franks, 19 Jamie Hannah, 20 Tahlor Cahill, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Ryan Crotty, 23 Dallas McLeod.

Hurricanes: 15 Ruben Love, 14 Josh Moorby, 13 Billy Proctor (co-captain), 12 Riley Higgins, 11 Kini Naholo, 10 Brett Cameron, 9 Cam Roigard, 8 Brayden Iose, 7 Peter Lakai, 6 Devan Flanders, 5 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 4 James Tucker, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Asafo Aumua (co-captain), 1 Tevita Mafileo.
Reserves: 16 James O’Reilly, 17 Pouri Rakete-Stones, 18 Pasilio Tosi, 19 Justin Sangster, 20 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Peter Umaga-Jensen, 23 Salesi Rayasi.

Referee: James Doleman
Assistant referees: Jono Bredin, Fraser Hannon
TMO: Chris Hart