The Crusaders have won the inaugural Super Rugby Pacific title, defeating the Blues 21-7 at Eden Park.
Captain Scott Barrett said the feeling was more of relief, as they had travelled up to take on the daunting task of facing the Blues infront of a sellout Eden Park.
“I have the honour to lead this team.. everyone looks out for one another and there’s just something really special there.”
Richie Mounga told Joe Wheeler on the sidelines after the match that they perform at their best when they have their backs against the wall.
He said one of the keys to the Saders preparations is to not feel pressured.
“We try not to let the pressure get to us. Just play heads up footy and thats what we do as Crusaders and that’s what we love.. ”
Many predicted the final would be tight but it was far from it as the competition’s most dominant side took command from the outset, much to the dismay of a full house of 43,000 at Eden Park.
Despite wet conditions, the Crusaders played with an accuracy that has been a hallmark of their enduring success.
They kicked precisely, were unflinching at the breakdown and utterly dominated the lineouts to hand coach Scott Robertson a sixth title from his six seasons in charge.
Two of those, in 2020 and 2021, came under the Super Rugby Aotearoa internal format, with 10 titles having been claimed in the pre-Covid era.
With his pack laying the groundwork, Crusaders five-eighth Richie Mo’unga was able to control the game tactically, as well as kick 11 points.
After the match Crusaders Head Coach Scott Robertson
The Blues, chasing their fourth trophy and their first since 2003, were considered strong contenders to halt the Crusaders juggernaut.
They secured a rare win in Christchurch two months ago as part of a 15-match winning streak to earn home advantage for the decider.
However, they couldn’t get enough quality possession to in-form playmaker Beauden Barrett, their handling errors and a failure to secure lineout ball counting heavily against them.
For all their early dominance, the Crusaders’ lead was just 3-0 after half an hour, via a Mo’unga dropped goal.
He doubled the advantage with a penalty goal before the lead was stretched to 13-0 when scrum-half Bryn Hall popped the ball over the tryline off the back of a ruck on the stroke of halftime.
Mo’unga’s second penalty was followed by a lone Blues try, when scrum-half Finlay Christie darted across after the ball came loose from a scrum.
It ensured the hosts wouldn’t be the first team held scoreless in a Super Rugby final but they never come close to scoring again and conceded a late try to Sevu Reece after failing to control a kick.
TRIES: Hall, Reece
CONS: Mo’unga 1/2
PENS: Mo’unga 2/3
DROP GOAL: Mo’unga 1/1
CONS: Perofeta 1/1
BLUES V CRUSADERS TEAMS
Blues: 15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 11 AJ Lam, 10 Beauden Barrett (captain), 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Adrian Choat, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Tom Robinson, 4 Josh Goodhue, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Replacements: 16 Soane Vikena, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Dalton Papalii, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Bryce Heem, 23 Zarn Sullivan.
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 Quenten Strange, 20 Corey Kellow, 21 Mitch Drummond, 22 Braydon Ennor, 23 George Bridge.
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe.
Assistant referees: Nic Berry, Stu Curran.