Highlanders come up short after big effort

Richie Mo'unga offloads to Jack Goodhue in the Crusaders' win over the Highlanders in...
Richie Mo'unga offloads to Jack Goodhue in the Crusaders' win over the Highlanders in Christchurch. Photo: Getty Images
It was a huge effort, but in the end it was not quite enough.

The Highlanders were beaten 32-22 by the Crusaders in Christchurch today, as the hosts clinched the Super Rugby Aotearoa title.

It was a much-improved display from the Highlanders, following last week's loss to the Blues.

They matched the Crusaders up front and were effective at the breakdown.

But two quick tries to left winger George Bridge midway through the second half proved decisive.

The Highlanders had led 22-13 at that point, but trailed 25-22 as the Crusaders clinically took their chances.

It was a period the Highlanders could not come back from, particularly as Sio Tomkinson was perhaps harshly yellow carded after an off-ball collision with Oli Jager.

They had performed well up until that point.

A Shannon Frizell try gave them the perfect start and while Richie Mo'unga touched down shortly after, a penalty and a Josh Ioane try took the Highlanders to a 17-7 lead.

The Crusaders pulled that back by three on halftime, before Michael Collins scored to make it 22-13 with 25 minutes to go.

But at that point Bridge scored his double, before Brayden Ennor hit a nice ball from Mo'unga to put it beyond reach with five minutes to play.

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