Crusaders hold off Chiefs to reach Super Rugby Pacific Final
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Crusaders have marched into the Super Rugby Final with a 20-7 win over the Chiefs, producing stonewall defence to safeguard their Christchurch fortress yet again.
Crusaders No.8 Cullen Grace grabbed a decisive brace of first-half tries and Richie Mo’unga gave a masterclass at flyhalf on a drizzly night in Christchurch.
A Pablo Matera red card, received after conceding two yellows, wasn’t a big enough advantage for the Chiefs, who were their own worst enemy on numerous occasions throughout the contest.
No points were scored in the second half, but the gut-busting defending after the interval stifled a relentless Chiefs attack, ensuring Scott Robertson’s team extended their perfect record in home play-offs to 27 wins.
Bidding for a sixth championship trophy in as many years, the Crusaders will meet the winner of the Blues-Brumbies who play the other semifinal at Eden Park on Saturday.
“It was effort. I’m immensely proud of the boys,” said Crusaders skipper Scott Barrett.
“You have to take your hats off to the Chiefs. They threw 120 percent at us and I’m sure there are going to be some sore bodies over the next few days.”
The Chiefs needed everything to go right for them to upset the Crusaders but suffered a terrible opening quarter and blew three, hot try chances.
Down 0-6 after two early Mo’unga penalties, the Chiefs saw the first try go begging when Pita Gus Sowakula failed to ground the ball in the 12th minute.
The Chiefs wasted the second chance on the cusp of halftime when Alex Nankivell flung a wide ball straight to Crusaders winger Leicester Fainga’anuku.
Fullback Josh Ioane later sent a pass sailing over Quinn Tupaea’s head into the terraces as the unmarked centre streamed toward the right corner in the 54th minute.
The Chiefs battled to the finish but were constantly repelled by the wall of red-and-black jerseys as the Crusaders stayed firm in an attritional second half to set up another championship match in a week’s time.
Tries: Grace 2
Cons: Mo’unga 2
Pens: Mo’unga 2
Yellow cards: Pablo Matera (20′ and 32′)
Red Card: Pablo Matera (32′ after two yellow cards)
Crusaders: 15 Will Jordan, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 David Havili, 11 Leicester Fainga’anuku, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Scott Barrett (captain), 3 Oli Jager, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 George Bower.
Replacements: 16 Brodie McAlister, 17 Tamaiti Williams, 18 Fletcher Newell, 19 Zach Gallagher, 20 Corey Kellow, 21 Mitch Drummond, 22 Braydon Ennor, 23 George Bridge.
Chiefs: 15 Josh Ioane, 14 Jonah Lowe, 13 Alex Nankivell, 12 Quinn Tupaea, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Bryn Gatland, 9 Brad Weber (captain), 8 Pita Gus Sowakula, 7 Luke Jacobson, 6 Samipeni Finau, 5 Tupou Vaa’i, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 Aidan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Bradley Slater, 17 Ollie Norris, 18 George Dyer, 19 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Xaiver Roe, 22 Rameka Poihipi, 23 Chase Tiatia.
Referee: Nic Berry
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill & Jordan Way
TMO: Chris Hart