Crusaders sweat over key players ahead of Final
INJURY UPDATE: The Crusaders will be sweating over the fitness of some key players ahead of their Super Rugby Final showdown with the Jaguares next Saturday.
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson, who described his team’s 30-26 win over the Hurricanes in Christchurch at the weekend as “absolutely deserved of a Final”, admitted lock Scott Barrett and midfielder Ryan Crotty are concerns, as a result of hand injuries suffered in the bruising semifinal.
Barrett (finger) and Crotty (thumb) will go for scans to determine if they have fractures.
“They’re important players for us,” Robertson said.
“One-hundred odd games for Crotty and Scooter [Barrett] is one of the best locks in the world,” Robertson said.
Crotty will move to Japan next year, so he would hope to be cleared for a final fling with the Crusaders.
There was better news regarding prop Joe Moody and flyhalf Richie Mo’unga, who were both nursing sore shoulders after the Crusaders.
Moody left the match early in the second half after a “bang to the shoulder”, while Mo’unga played on after being clobbered by Hurricanes hooker Dane Coles early in the match.
“He [Mo’unga] was down for a while, wasn’t he? It hurt him.”
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Robertson said his team was looking forward to the Final, but admitted the Hurricanes gave them a big scare.
“It was a Final, absolutely deserved of a Super [Rugby] Final,” the coach said, adding that it was a game of “Test match intensity”.
“You’ve got to give it to the Hurricanes, it could have gone either way,” Robertson said.
“That was a Test match. The boys coming off the field are talking about it, saying that’s as good as it gets and deserved of potentially a Super [Rugby] Final, but there’s one of those next week.”
Read the match report here: Another Final for Crusaders
Out-scored four tries to three in Christchurch at the weekend, the Crusaders found a way to remain on track for a third straight title, with Mo’unga once again a key figure.
Mo’unga scored 20 points, while wing Sevu Reece scored a double to push him clear as the competition’s leading try-scorer with 15.
It was enough to win a Kiwi derby thriller, quelling a Hurricanes side who were led by Ngani Laumape’s double and an inspiring display from scrumhalf Thomas Perenara, whose 127th game was a Hurricanes record.
Standing in the way of a 10th Crusaders title is the Jaguares after the Argentine side booked their maiden grand final appearance with a 39-7 demolition of the Brumbies in Buenos Aires earlier in the weekend.
However, the Jaguares must slay the competition’s Goliath next week in Christchurch.
The Crusaders have won 30 successive home matches and have never lost a home finals match. They are 23-from-23, with six of those wins coming over the Hurricanes.
Skipper Sam Whitelock said halting the Hurricanes’ suite of attacking players was problematic.
“We did a great job up until 39 minutes in and it just shows the belief these [Hurricanes] boys have in their team,” he said.
“Once they score one, all of a sudden the floodgates open. We’re happy our boys stuck together and we get to go again.”
Hurricanes counterpart Dane Coles said his team’s theme in the build-up was simply to never give up.
“We absorbed a lot of their pressure and we were pretty happy to go 13-7 [into half-time],” he said.
“I’m proud of the bloody effort because everyone was writing us off.
“We worked hard just to come up short. So I’m proud of the ticker but gutted that we lost.”
@rugby365com & AAP