The Crusaders produced a brutal defensive display to claim a 37-18 win over the Lions in a memorable final in Christchurch on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
The legacy of the indomitable Crusaders continues. The peerless New Zealand side have claimed a ninth Super Rugby title, and back-to-back wins over the Lions in the title decider.
Although the Lions battled gallantly for much of Saturday’s final, the Crusaders once again built a deserved victory on robust defence, superb breakdown work and clinical attack.
Despite having to make 180 tackles to the Lions’ 115 on Saturday, they missed just 25, and repeatedly repelled the Lions’ maul and ball runners through physical defence. Unfortunately for the Johannesburg-based side, it’s another heartbreak in a third successive final.
Despite some predictions of inclement weather earlier in the week, cool and dry conditions greeted the players at kick-off in Christchurch, with the Lions making the most of it as they dominated territory and possession during the opening exchanges.
It served as an ideal start to proceedings for the visitors, but with virtually the first meaningful attack from the Crusaders, powerful wing Seta Tamanivalu was put away to score in the corner just before the quarter-hour mark.
Although the Lions would have been encouraged by their ability to still remain very much in the contest early on, it was notable that a key weapon of theirs, the lineout drive, was repeatedly met with robust defence from the Crusaders.
It would have also been a real hammer blow when Crusaders star Richie Mo’unga collected a poor kick from opposite number Elton Jantjies and broke through the Lions’ defence to set up a superb try to David Havili. Suddenly, the Crusaders had soared into a 17-point lead.
That left the Lions with a mountain to climb heading into the second half, but they made some much-needed inroads when flanker Cyle Brink busted through a tackle and went over to score in the 53rd minute.
It briefly appeared to spark some renewed belief in the Lions, but then came a typical Crusaders special as they went through the phases before finally sending Mitchell Drummond in for a crucial try under the posts.
That restored their 17-point lead with just over 15 minutes to play, but there was another opening for the Lions when Ryan Crotty was sent to the sin bin after repeated infringements, and soon after, Malcolm Marx barged over for the visitors’ second try.
However, the expected result was sealed when the Crusaders struck straight back with a try to Scott Barrett that sent his side into an unassailable 37-18 lead.
Crusaders – Tries: Seta Tamanivalu, David Havili, Mitchell Drummond, Scott Barrett. Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (4). Penalties: Mo’unga (3).
Lions – Tries: Cyle Brink, Malcolm Marx. Conversion: Elton Jantjies. Penalties: Jantjies (2).
Crusaders – 15 David Havili, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 5 Sam 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 Pete Samu, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Braydon Ennor.
Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrink, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Subs: 16 Corné Fourie, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Marnus Schoeman, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 23 Howard Mnisi.
Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images