Superior Crusaders secure Super Rugby Grand Final ‘pole position’

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In another superior display, the host of the 2018 Super Rugby Grand Final placed one hand on the championship cup. The Crusaders managed both the expectations and pressure of the semi-final, to overcome the Hurricanes 30-12.

The match highlights above show how intense the game was. The initial belief was that the Hurricanes would bring their expansive game with them, but in the end, were outplayed in all areas of the game. Defeated head coach Chris Boyd summed it up post-match;

“They dominated us in pretty much all facets of the game. So we can’t complain that they’re going on and we’re not,” Boyd told Fairfax Media.

Superior display from Crusaders secures Super Rugby Grand Final ‘pole position’

His admission that the visitors had few answers, was a repeat of 20 other coaches who had brought their team to Christchurch, for a Super Rugby playoff game. Undefeated in 19 previous matches, the 2018 Crusaders team are confident in their defence, and proud of their attack.

Crusaders team mates David Havili, Braydon Ennor and Mitchell Drummond celebrate after the Super Rugby Semi Final match at AMI Stadium on July 28, 2018 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

Scoring did not begin until the 15th minute, but Richie Mo’unga opened their account. His display would outshine his All Blacks team mate, Beauden Barrett. The ‘Canes first five was unable to get any ascension, while Mo’unga had options and quality ‘go forward ball’.

In the end, that superiority rang true. The incomparable Crusaders ran in four tries, and the only concern for them will have been loose forward Jordan Taufua leaving the field [for what turned out to be a broken arm].

Few delights for Boyd’s team, with a suspect Julian Savea try in the opening half to work with. They dropped too much ball, missed too many tackles and were only rewarded at the end, when barnstorming Ben Lam secured the outright Super Rugby tryscoring record.

Crusaders 30 – Tries: R. Mo’unga, G. Bridge, D. Havili, B. Ennor; Conversions: Mo’unga (2); Penalties: Mo’unga (2)

Hurricanes 12 – Tries: J. Savea, B. Lam; Con: B. Barrett.

While the Hurricanes winger can be satisfied, his team will not be too pleased to end the season on a low point. But they have fine company – across the last two years, only three losses show on the Crusaders record. That proves it is a formidable task, and departing coach and several players, might feel they came up against a side who are playing at a higher level.

“At the end of the day, the Crusaders are probably, at the moment, with what they’ve got, 20 points better than any side,” Boyd said. So when the Crusaders scored 18 points before halftime, and then a try to David Havili four minutes into the second half, that advantage was clear.

First five-eighth Richie Mo’unga who scored a try and kicked two conversions and two penalties to bag 15 points was named man of the match, and few could argue with that decision.

Scott Robertson more than happy with performance

As much as head coach Scott Robertson will be happy with his sides performance, it will be the control that his side displayed, that will please his coaching group. With a minor possession superiority, they used the ball wisely, with a territorial advantage that will make next weeks challenger, a little concerned.

That involved good kicking, and good decision making. Mo’unga was lauded by his coach. “Richie was great for us again, it seems he has a great amount of time and made some clutch plays for us,” Robertson said. “He was phenomenal and brave.”

But the forwards will also be given a back slap. Their set piece was at 100% and both forwards and backs were controlled in their aggression. Turnovers and a well-formed defence, meant they negated the Hurricanes ability to counter-attack.

Sam Whitelock and his Crusaders charge into Grand Final

“The boys really digged in. We knew it was going to take a whole 80 minute performance and we were spot on,” Whitelock told reporters. “We’d concentrated all week on our own game.”

Reaching top gear quickly, and staying on pace is a skill that this unit has. From number one to 15, with substitutes who can continue that level of performance. “I was really proud of the boys, they did what they said they would.”

With a 5-7 penalty count, it gave the visitors less chance to gain any momentum. While some mistakes occurred, the overall feeling is that it would take a catastrophe to upset the style of play shown by the ‘red and blacks’.

“Discipline was good and the execution was even better.”

Robertson, who is both an astute coach and a character who is admired and respected, might have chosen to stay up late, to inspect the ‘incoming challenge’. He could have watched it live, or studied it after his early morning surf. Comfortable knowing that which ever side it was, his team would feel the more settled, after yet another nights sleep in the comfort of their homes.

They now await the Super Rugby Grand Final.

Lions will now face the hardest task in World Rugby

Across in the republic, the NSW Waratahs held the hopes of Australian Super Rugby. They ran out to an early lead, and the match was even at 19-19 after 40 minutes. But once the restart occurred, the ‘Tahs let themselves down with a yellow card. It opened the scoring, and the Lions overcame the challenge.

With the 2018 Super Rugby Grand Final schedule now confirmed, it will be a case of the visitors doing everything in their power to prepare. They must be physically ready, mental in tune, and astute in creating a game plan to match the Crusaders.

That might be the hardest task in world rugby though. Beating the Crusaders at home. But, if one team has had the practice to prepare to do it – third final in three consecutive years – then it might be the Emirates Lions.

Crusaders v Lions – Saturday August 4. AMI Stadium, Christchurch

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