By Roger Childs
In front of a packed house in Christchurch on Saturday the Crusaders won their fifth consecutive Super Rugby title. They beat the Chiefs 24-13 in an action-packed, incident-filled match which include three excellent tries and two yellow cards. Both cards were against the southerners’ but the Chiefs couldn’t capitalize on the advantage of having 15 players to 13 for a time in the second half.
Dominant forward effort
Well led by Scott Barrett the Crusaders forwards dominated the scrums and lineouts, and as well as wining all their throw-ins they poached a number of the Chiefs throws. The home team loosies also had the better of their opposites. In the backs Richie Mo’unga had an outstanding game feeding his outsides efficiently, making some great breaks and kicking key goals, including a well-taken drop goal during the yellow card period. He was unquestionably the man of the match.
All the Crusader backs were impressive notably David Haveli who proved very hard to bring down will ball in hand and his chip kick through late in the first half allowed the speedy full back Will Jordon to gather the ball to score the team’s second try.
Earlier Sevu Reece had scored in the corner and he always looked dangerous on the right wing. He did blot his copybook in the second half being yellow carded for a high tackle in which his arm struck the head of his opponent. He may have been lucky not to get a red card.
A strong challenge
The Chiefs were in the game until the last quarter. Damien McKenzie had another impressive game, however three missed penalty kicks proved costly. However he was always dangerous with ball in hand and scored a brilliant first half try in the corner after receiving a superb off-load from Alex Nankervill. In the second half the visitors almost scored a second try in the corner but the player just missed getting the ball over the line.
Brad Weber played well at half back for the visitors whipping out quick passes to his outsides. There were a number of promising breaks from the backs, but they couldn’t be finished off because of solid tackling from the Crusaders. The Chiefs defence was also impressive with All Black Anton Lienert-Brown being a stand out.
Loosie Luke Jacobson and hooker Samisori Taukei’aho were the pick of the visitors’ forwards but the pack was unable to match the strength of the Crusaders in the scrums and missed lineout takes proved costly.
A weakness of the Chiefs strategy was too much of the “high kick and hope” approach as invariably the Crusaders took the high ball to regain possession.
The Chiefs could feel hard done by on a couple of refereeing decisions.
- In the 33rd minute winger Jonah Lowe was prevented from scoring in the corner by a high tackle from Crusaders full back Will Jordan. Under the rules if there is foul play preventing a try being scored, then a penalty try is awarded. The Chiefs just got a penalty.
- Then in the 41st minute Crusaders winger George Bridge hooked the ball over the dead-ball line – an offence punishable by a yellow card. Rugby fans will recall Sonny Bill Williams doing this in a test match a few years ago and paying the price. The referee just awarded a goal line drop out.
At the time these refereeing errors would have been costly for the home team. Surely the four match officials could have got things right?
Coach Scott Robertson was elated with his team’s performance and celebrated with a display of his trade-mark break-dancing. With another trophy in the cabinet Robertson further strengthened his case for elevation to All Black coach next year.
Across the Tasman the Reds, coached by former Crusader Brad Thorn, won the Australian Super Rugby competition by beating last year’s winners the Brumbies 19-16.
From next week the super teams from the two nations will meet to decide an overall trans-Tasman champion and the first match sees the Reds play the Highlanders in Dunedin.