This article originally appeared on Stuff and is reproduced with permission
Cool, clinical, classical. The Crusaders have delivered another grand final masterpiece to strangle the life out of the home-town Blues in front of a sellout crowd of 45,000 in the Super Rugby Pacific decider.
The big crowd packed the Auckland rugby citadel hopeful of cheering their side to a 16th consecutive victory in this outstanding season; instead they could only stand and applaud another magnificent final performance from Scott Robertson’s side as it secured a remarkable 13th Super Rugby title (including two of the Aotearoa variety).
The commanding victory, two tries to one, continued the Red and Blacks’ incredible dominance under Robertson. Since the man they call “Razor” took charge in 2017, they have rattled off a hat-trick of Super Rugby titles, back-to-back Aotearoa triumphs and now have lifted the inaugural Pacific trophy. They are quite simply indomitable, and it is no coincidence Robertson is considered the All Blacks coach in waiting.
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The masters of knockout rugby, of owning the big moments, of squeezing the life out of opponents on the big stage did it again, pressing the Blues into a remarkable 10 losses on their own throw at lineout time. With that sort of profligacy, the in-form home side were really no luck.
The Crusaders forwards dominated the battle for possession and territory, and negated the dangerous home backline superbly throughout. Sam Whitelock, the rugged Pablo Matera and the busy Tom Christie led an outstanding pack effort, Richie Mo’unga had some real moments of brilliance, and Leicester Fainga’anuku, Sevu Reece and David Havili were the pick of a backline that ran hard all night. Will Jordan, of course, gobbled up 118 meters with ball in hand.
The Blues were up against it all night with that imploding lineout, and just could not create the chances they needed to change the momentum. Beauden Barrett could make no headway, and Rieko Ioane was a non-factor.
It was all the Crusaders through the first 40 minutes as the Blues lineout wobbled badly (losing five on their own throw) and they simply did not have enough possession or territory to put the visitors under much in the way of pressure.
In many ways the hosts were fortunate not to head into the sheds with more than a 13-0 deficit, and it was only some heroic rearguard defense that kept the Crusaders from mounting a more formidable advantage through a half in which they had 64 per cent territory and 63 per cent possession, double the running meters (301-151) and forced the Blues to make 115 tackles, to just 46 of their own.
It was only in the shadow of halftime that the Crusaders managed to cross the Blues’ line, with Bryn Hall’s little dab-down, after a brilliant run on the inside line by Fainga’anuku, adding to the dropped goal and penalty accumulated earlier by Mo’unga.
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It looked a long way back when Mo’unga banged over an early second-half penalty for the 13-0 lead, and though Fin Christie ignited the big home crowd with an opportunist try just shy of the three-quarter mark (the Crusaders making a rare set-piece error at a defensive scrum), the deal was sealed when Reece ran through to gather Matera’s pinpoint kick through in the 76th minute.
All that remained was for the Crusaders to raise yet another trophy, and that Razor breakdance to unfurl.
Crusaders 21 (Bryn Hall try 40min, Sevu Reece try 76min; Richie Mo’unga DG, 2 pen, con), Blues 7 (Finlay Christie try 59min; Stephen Perofeta con). excl. tax: 13-0.
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