The Crusaders earned the right to host the Jaguares in the Vodacom Super Rugby final after beating the Hurricanes 30-26 in Christchurch on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The result sees the Crusaders advancing to a third-straight final. Scott Robertson’s side will host the Jaguares, who beat the Brumbies in Buenos Aires, to qualify for their first-ever Super Rugby decider.
The Crusaders were made to fight tooth and nail for the victory. The game was in the balance right until the death, and no small amount of composure was needed to secure the result.
The Crusaders dominated possession in the first half. They kicked often, either for space or to create an aerial contest. Their ability to regather the ball allowed them to maintain their attacking momentum and punish the Hurricanes defence.
George Bridge sparked an attacking movement when he plucked a ball out of the Christchurch sky to set up another phase. Ryan Crotty then hit a long kick for Sevu Reece to chase, and the winger showed excellent hands to regather and score.
Richie Mo’unga controlled the game superbly from the flyhalf position. By the 34th minute, he’d kicked two penalties and a conversion to steer his side into a commanding 13-0 lead.
Ngani Laumape gave the Hurricanes a sniff, though, when he powered through the Crusaders defence on the stroke of half time. Trailing 13-7, the visitors were still in the contest.
The second half was a more open affair. The Hurricanes attempted to lift the tempo, and found some space in the wider channels.
The visitors struck immediately after the break. Beauden Barrett put Billy Proctor through a gap in midfield, and the movement eventually climaxed with Ben Lam finishing in the left-hand corner.
It didn’t take long for the Crusaders to reply. Mou’unga chipped over the defence and the Hurricanes defenders failed to deal with the bouncing ball. Reece collected and then passed back to his flyhalf, who went on to score under the posts.
Yet another turnover and kick resulted in a try. The ball spilled loose when Dane Coles brought Jack Goodhue to ground, and Laumape managed to hack it ahead. The ball bounced up and struck the centre in the chest, but he eventually managed to regather it and claim his second try of the evening.
Reece scored his second try, and Mo’unga converted from the right-hand touchline to restore the hosts’ eight-point lead. That advantage was reduced to one when TJ Perenara crashed over the line moments later.
Ultimately the Crusaders were more clinical in the dying stages. The Hurricanes made several handling errors to relinquish possession. They conceded a penalty in front of the posts, and Mo’unga made them pay.
The Hurricanes continued to run at the Crusaders in the final moments. A knock-on in the penultimate play, however, allowed the Crusaders to finish with possession and close out the game.
Crusaders – Try: Sevu Reece (2), Richie Mo’unga. Conversions: Mo’unga (3). Penalties: Mo’unga (3).
Hurricanes – Tries: Ngani Laumape (2), Ben Lam, TJ Perenara. Conversions: Beauden Barrett (3).
Crusaders – 15 David Havili, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 5 Samuel Whitelock (c), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Braydon Ennor.
Hurricanes – 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Salesi Rayasi, 13 Billy Proctor, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Jeff To’omaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles (c), 1 Toby Smith.
Subs: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Xavier Numia, 18 Ben May, 19 Kane Le’aupepe, 20 Vaea Fifita, 21 Richard Judd, 22 James Marshall, 23 Jonah Lowe.
Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images