The Crusaders dominated the Blues with a top goalscorer title and won the Super Rugby Pacific final 21-7 at a sold-out Eden Park in Auckland.
The powerful Christchurch franchise claimed a record-breaking 11th Super Rugby crown as they broke the Blues’ 15-match winning streak with a relentless performance in wet and slippery conditions.
Scrum half Bryn Hall and winger Sevu Reece scored on either side of half time, while Richie Mo’unga led the game with a brilliant display in the first half, contributing 11 points from the boot.
The Blues, cheered by a large home crowd, were simply unable to come to the fore and unleash their talented backs until it was too late.
Scrum half Finlay Christie gave them a pinch of hope with an opportunistic try in the 59th minute, but a defensive mix-up gave Reece a score four minutes from time to put the result beyond doubt.
It was a sixth consecutive title for the Crusaders under coach Scott Robertson after winning the last three editions of the transcontinental Super Rugby and domestic Super Rugby Aotearoa competition in the past two years.
“We’ve always talked about effort on both sides of the ball,” said All Blacks Lock and Crusaders veteran Sam Whitelock.
“It’s not always about scoring points, sometimes it’s about preventing them from scoring.”
Super Rugby was relaunched this year as a Pacific-focused championship, but the end result was the same as 10 of the 24 editions of the pre-COVID competition.
On display were the rock-solid defences, the dominant backdrop, the attackers battling for every slump and the backs trying to attack at every opportunity that’s in the DNA of the Christchurch-based dynasty.
The Blues, dominant in the early years of the competition, had tried to take over the Crusaders after a high-octane attack, but initially looked shocked at the intensity of the match.
For all their domination of territory and possession in the first half, the Crusaders only had a drop goal and penalty from Mo’unga to show their efforts until just before half-time.
Leicester Fainga’anuku had previously been held over the line and the hulking winger was stopped just short when he went out again.
Argentinian flanker Pablo Matera was pushed back from close range, but Hall cleverly dabbed the ball down for a try through a tangle of legs after an excellent ruck clean out by Whitelock, who dominated the loose and the lineout, that dominated the Crusaders.
It was a turnover from another plumed lineout from Blues that led to a Crusaders penalty turning Mo’unga into a 16-0 lead in the 46th minute.
Christie finally got the Blues on the board when he jumped a loose ball in the back of a Crusaders scrum for a converted try that narrowed the deficit to 16-7, but even that was too steep a mountain to take against the visiting defence. climb.
“Tonight was not our night, we really weren’t good enough,” said Blues fly half Beauden Barrett.
“Really disappointing, we’ve had a good season, we wanted to come here tonight to do a job here. It’s hard to swallow.”
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