Super Rugby Final: Crusaders clinch third consecutive title with win over Jaguares
Crusaders fans can hold out both hands when signalling how many Super Rugby titles their team has won.
The red and blacks beat the Jaguares 19-3 in Christchurch on Saturday night to snare their third title in as many years, and a record-extending 10th.
Victory sauce will go down particularly sweet for the swag of Crusaders who won’t be back next year, including former captain Kieran Read, prop Owen Franks, midfielder Ryan Crotty and loose forward Jordan Taufua.
The same goes for departing assistant coaches Brad Mooar and Ronan O’Gara, who followed head coach Scott Robertson down the south stand as the crowd exploded into a “three-peat” chant in the waning minutes.
This was far from a classic final, mostly due to the plethora of handling errors on a damp track at Orangetheory Stadium.
But that’s not to say it wasn’t intense, as the red and blacks rolled up their sleeves and turned a 10-3 halftime lead into a 16-point win.
For what it lacked in execution and quality, there was plenty of stinging hits in the defensive slug-fest, which wasn’t in the bag until Richie Mo’unga slotted his fourth penalty goal with six minutes to play.
First-five eighth Mo’unga, who scored 23 and 20 points respectively against the Highlanders and Hurricanes the past two weeks, kicked 14 points in another flawless night off the tee, while hooker Codie Taylor bagged the only try of the fixture.
The home side’s defence was at its staunch best, rebuffing raid after raid of Jaguares’ attack in the second spell as they chased what would have been a heck of a boil over.
They certainly threatened, and so they should have with the possession and territory they enjoyed, but it was not to be.
It didn’t help that the Crusaders enjoyed scrum and maul dominance, which they utilised to earn penalties for Mo’unga to pop over.
It wasn’t necessarily pretty, but there’s no style points in a final, something the Crusaders – playing in their 14th decider – know full well.
Whether or not they were consistently onside, the Jaguares unsettled the Crusaders with their blistering line speed for much of the match.
They forced a bunch of knock-ons with the ploy, as the hosts struggled to string more than a handful of phases together for much of the night.
Perhaps the loss of Ryan Crotty, who broke his thumb during the semifinal last week, didn’t help, as the usually potent backs failed to find penetration
But it wasn’t just the backs. All Blacks captain Kieran Read, and loosehead prop Joe Moody, also fumbled away possession.
The Crusaders’ forwards rolled up their sleeves and got on top of the Jaguares in the second spell.
Read’s mistake – at the base of a scrum – followed by a poor Mo’unga cross-field kick inside his own 22, almost cost the hosts dearly late in the first half.
However, Jaguares wing Matias Moroni blew a peach of an opportunity to put his side up, after ignoring his support and going it alone.
Crusaders fullback David Havili deserves kudos for desperate tackle, which propelled the ball from Moroni’s grasp.
Instead of taking a narrow lead, they found themselves trailing 10-3 at the split, after Mo’unga slotted a 38 metre penalty goal after the hooter.
It was reward for halfback Bryn Hall’s gutsy decision to run the ball out from deep inside their own 22m, rather than settle for a 7-3 lead at the break.
The Crusaders, who trailed 3-0 after a 16th minute penalty goal by Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, sure had to work mighty hard for their points.
Hooker Taylor’s try was scored after captain Sam Whitelock – in his last game until 2021 – found space down the left-hand flank and fed him an inside ball.
But credit must also go to openside flanker Matt Todd, who played a whale of a game, and earned the turnover steal for Read to set Whitelock free.
Crusaders 19 (Codie Taylor try; Richie Mo’unga con, 4 pen)
Jaguares 3 (Joaquin Diaz Bonilla pen)
15 David Havili, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Mitchell Dunshea, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 George Bower, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Will Jordan
15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Matias Moroni, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo De La Fuente (captain), 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Domingo Miotti, 23 Sebastian Cancelliere
Match: Crusaders v Jaguares
Date: Saturday 6 July
Venue: Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch
Kick Off local: 19:35 (ARG 04:35; GMT 07:35; RSA 09:35; JAP 16:35; AUS 17:35)
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Ref 1: Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 2: Paul Williams
TMO : Ben Skeen