The Crusaders have booked a ticket to the Grand Final with an emphatic win at Orangetheory Stadium over long-time rivals the Blues.
Nerves and expectation were high ahead of Friday night’s semi-final bout, both sated by red and black dominance from start to finish. The final score 52-15 to the Crusaders – the most our boys have ever scored in a play off – a huge statement ahead of a trip north to Hamilton to face the Chiefs who got the better of the Brumbies on Saturday night.
About 14000 people crowded into the fortress built by a 29-0 home play off record, ready to witness another chapter in the storied history of these two teams.
A luck/skill kick from Dallas McLeod landed the Crusaders a 50-22 in the opening seconds of the game, maintaining possession within five metres of the Blues tryline. Mitchell Drummond delivered quality ball out to to Richie Mo’unga who spotted Braydon Ennor left of centre. Ennor hit the jets to cut through the Blues’ defence to touch down right on two minutes. Mo’unga added the extras.
Richie’s penalty minutes later put him into 4th place on the Super Rugby all-time point scorers and made it 10-0 within the first 10.
Reporters in the stands would’ve only just been updating their notes when the Crusaders crossed the line again a minute later through some patient build-up work. Leicester Fainga’anuku collecting a quality offload from Will Jordan who’d done the work to break the Blues’ defence. Faing’anuku cantered through to dot it down calmly near the uprights. No extras from Mo’unga, but a penlaty in the 21st minute made it 18-0.
The Blues were on the scoreboard in the 25th through a Beauden Barrett penalty, 18-3.
Ennor to Jordan right in front of the posts in the 35th and the fullback is through in style. Mo’unga’s extras made it 25-3 as the clock ticked closer to half time. Strength and patience from the pack resulted in one more try before the hooter, this time from perennial try-scorer Codie Taylor. Mo’unga’s conversion made it 32-3 as the teams returned to the sheds.
Less than 10 minutes into the second half and Taylor delivers a long lineout whcih finds Christian Lio-Willie. Offload to Fainga’anuku who sees the tryline from near the 10 metre line. He cuts a fast figure through the Blues defence, stages an offload but holds the ball himself to crash over. Huge emotion from the team and the fans, who surely see the writing on the wall at this stage. 39-3 with 30 minutes still to go.
The Blues found the try line near the 60 minute mark through Beauden Barrett. A failed conversion kept the score at 39-8, pushed out to 42-8 after a Mo’unga penalty a few minutes later.
A team try in the 71 minute was capped by a magic Mo’unga pass to Fergus Burke who finished the job. Mo’unga’s conversion made it 49-8 as the final minutes ticked away. One more penalty slotted by Mo’unga before Caleb Clarke got across after the hooter. Barrett with the conversion to give us a final score of 52-15.
We now travel to Hamilton to take on the Chiefs in the Grand Final. Another rivalry, another battle, another week.