Crusaders Beat Highlanders To Win 2020 Title!
- Published: 09 August 2020
Death, taxes and the Crusaders winning Super Rugby titles.
The red and blacks came from behind to beat the Highlanders 32-22 in Christchurch on Sunday afternoon to secure the Super Rugby Aotearoa title with a round to play.
As messed up as 2020 has been, you could say a fourth title in as many years – and 11th overall – brings a semblance of normalcy to the calendar.
Try telling that to Blues and Hurricanes fans, who were desperate for the Highlanders to defy the odds and send the tournament down to the wire next week.
The Crusaders didn’t lead until George Bridge’s 65th minute try, his second in as many minutes as the hosts roared home in front of 17,400 expectant fans.
Until then, it appeared as if the Highlanders were going to poop all over their party in their final home game of the season.
The Highlanders led by as many as 10 points, outplaying their opponents for the majority of what was a memorable match.
Although that doesn't count for Crusaders replacement prop Oli Jager, who was knocked out cold by a Sio Tomkinson shoulder charge in the lead up to Bridge’s second try.
The crowd demanded a red card, but Tomkinson was instead yellow carded and the Highlanders’ challenge came up short.
To think only a bunch of minutes earlier they were celebrating centre Michael Collins’ try, which put them 22-13 up after 54 minutes.
Crusaders centre Braydon Ennor iced the game when he finished off a crisp move with five minutes on the clock. This wasn’t vintage Crusaders.
They were well off the mark in the discipline stakes, while unforced errors also blighted their game.
At times it felt like they couldn’t take a trick, especially when Canterbury-born Highlanders wing Josh McKay pulled off a remarkable try-saving tackle on halfback Bryn Hall.
He looked to be in for a go-ahead try early in the second half, when he took an inside ball and had 15 metres to the line.
Even the crowd were already out of their seats celebrating, only for McKay to blind side him and knock the pill loose over the line.
Frustration was brewing for the hosts, given they thought Ennor had a 90m runaway a few ticks earlier.
However, playing under penalty advantage, referee Paul Williams ruled he had picked the ball up from an offside position.
Williams teed off on the ill disciplined Crusaders all night, especially in the first half, pinging them seven times and ensuring they never found their rhythm.
On the other hand, boy did the Highlanders turn up to play.
Pegged to fourth in the standings, they opened the scoring a minute into the fixture, when outstanding flanker Shannon Frizell powered over near the sticks.
It came on the back of one of a raft of Crusaders turnovers inside their own half, as the clear sky and dry conditions tempted them into running it from everywhere.
Crusaders pivot Richie Mounga’s converted try finished off a Sevu Reece break and tied the match up after 13 minutes, but it wasn’t long before they were again on the back foot.
Highlanders wing Jona Nareki picked off a Sam Whitelock pass and motored 80 metres to hush the home fans, before Josh Ioane made it a 10-point game after 25 minutes.
Twice the Crusaders came close to scoring before the halftime whistle, only to have to settle for a pair of Mo’unga penalties and a 17-13 halftime deficit.
Crusaders 32 (Richie Mo’unga, George Bridge 2, Braydon Ennor tries; Mo’unga 3 con, 2 pen) Highlanders 22 (Shannon Frizell, Jona Nareki, Michael Collins tries; Josh Ioane 2 con, pen). HT: 13-17
Thanks to stuff.co.nz for the report