Crusaders claim third-straight Super Rugby title

The Crusaders celebrate at the final whistle of their third-straight Super Rugby final victory....
The Crusaders celebrate at the final whistle of their third-straight Super Rugby final victory. Photo: Getty Images
The Crusaders have done it again in Christchurch tonight – they've won title number three in three years for themselves and coach Scott Robertson – their 10th in total, with an efficient victory over the Jaguares.

It looks clearcut on the scoreboard, but it wasn't without its drama.

Before the breakdancing could begin, first the Crusaders had to break down the Jaguares and this was not a simple task, especially with blindside flanker Pablo Matera in the mix for the visitors, a player who was a creative force of nature as well as a destructive one and he may well have been the best player on the pitch.

Unfortunately for Matera and the Jaguares, there was too much to do in the second half and with the dewy Christchurch winter night playing its part for the home side, once the scoreboard pressure came via Richie Mo'unga's right boot off the tee the visitors had a very tough task indeed.

But they were worthy finalists and opposition. The Crusaders hadn't been beaten at home in 30 matches. They have never lost a playoff match at home, but the Pumas-laden Jaguares had promised to offer a different challenge and they brought in the first quarter in particular.

This was a proper final in every respect; it was tight and intense and with an initial emphasis on defence – and the collisions were epic - but there were some among the home side who stood out in particular as they weathered the storm and struck a big blow as the match entered its second quarter and they were Matt Todd, Kieran Read and Sam Whitelock.

In what was a defining moment of the half, Todd, into everything during what is probably his final game for the Crusaders, snaffled the ball from a high kick, along with David Havili, with Read flicking it on cleverly to Whitelock down the left, the Crusaders skipper sending a perfect pass inside to the supporting Taylor, who stretched out for a converted try.

Codie Taylor crosses the line for the game's only try. Photo: Getty Images
Codie Taylor crosses the line for the game's only try. Photo: Getty Images
It gave the Crusaders breathing space after Joaquin Diaz Bonilla's early penalty, and such was the defensive pressure being exerted by the visitors, who showed a remarkable discipline which hasn't been associated with them, Robertson's men needed it.

It turned out to be their only try-scoring opportunity of the half, and Havili was heavily involved in snuffing out the Jaguares' only chance; a last-ditch tackle on the line against the hard-charging right wing Matias Moroni with three minutes of the half remaining. On such things do finals balance.

A try would have given the Jaguares the halftime lead. Instead, the Crusaders added to their lead with a cheeky break from a defensive scrum after the siren by halfback Bryn Hall which gave Mo'unga a chance for an extra three points which he duly took. Mo'unga didn't miss a kick all night. What a season he's had.

For the departing Crusaders Read, Todd, Jordan Taufua, Owen Franks and others, including assistant coach Ronan O'Gara, this was a worthy reward at the end of a difficult season which had challenges none could have foreseen.

For coach Robertson it was a special triumph. He is the first coach to win three titles in a row – the Crusaders won three in a row starting in the late 90s, but Robertson has this one by himself.

Crusaders 19 (Codie Taylor try; Richie Mo'unga con, 4 pens)
Jaguares 3 (Joaquin Diaz Bonilla pen)
Halftime: 10-3

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