With heavy rain prevalent throughout, the 2015 champions battled to get going as the Crusaders dominated for large periods and eventually claimed a deserved 17-0 victory.
And to make matters worse, the Highlanders had to play with 14 men for 10 minutes in the first half after Liam Squire was sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle on Richie Mo’unga.
“Tough night at the office for us,” Brown told Stuff after the match.
“In those conditions they were just too good for us tonight. Obviously pretty dominant up front and we just gave away too many penalties in that first half, which gave them all the territory, put us under pressure and they eventually scored two tries from our penalties.”
First half tries from Joe Moody and Cody Taylor helped the Crusaders to a 17-0 lead at half-time and although no points were scored in the second half, the Highlanders continued to concede penalties and their lineout was also misfiring.
“In wet weather rugby your lineout needs to function and your scrum needs to function,” added Brown.
“We probably weren’t as good as we normally have been this year, but it goes back to the Crusaders being really dominant in that defensive lineout and being really powerful in the scrum.”
Highlanders captain Ben Smith echoed his coach’s sentiments but complimented the Crusaders.
“I don’t think our discipline was quite where it needed to be,” he said.
“Against a team like the Crusaders you’ve got to be really on your game.
“You just can’t let them get into your zone by giving away penalties and that’s probably what we did at times… but we’ve got to give a lot of credit to how the Crusaders played.”