Denying the Lions their traditional lineout-driving platform and scrum power, the BNZ Crusaders achieved a successful 37-18 defence of their Investec Super Rugby title, and made it nine titles in total, in front of a packed AMI Stadium in Christchurch on Saturday.
 
The visitors made every effort and secured better than a half share of ball in a game display, but the strong Crusaders' defence, involving 180 tackles to 115 for the Lions, cut down their efforts to break through and as a consequence the danger men - hooker Malcolm Marx, lock Franco Mostert and flanker Kwagga Smith -  were unable to exert their own influence.
 
Apart from the combined effort of the pack, the contribution behind the scrum of the two halfbacks - Bryn Hall and Mitch Drummond - allowed man of the final, first five-eighth Richie Mo'unga, to provide the tactical nuances to capitalise on even the slightest opportunities that were available.
Making an early lineout statement, the BNZ Crusaders upset the Lions, taking early turnover ball and then, at the first opportunity, rebutting the Lions' lineout maul attempt. 

Wing Ruan Combrinck, who provided an early attacking opportunity for his side with a probing run to the line, was only halted just short by desperate Crusaders' defence. Attempting to be patient the Lions dropped the ball and the Crusaders cleared. Then having their own first lineout opportunity close to the line, they produced a tight chance on the left flank where lock Franco Mostert prevented left wing George Bridge scoring in the corner. 

The Lions tried the quick throw, even on their own goalline but were forced to kick to touch. From the lineout the Crusaders moved the ball with second five-eighth Ryan Crotty, taking the ball up first.
 
 Then, after the release No.8 Kieran Read quickly got the ball to blindside flanker Heiden Bedwell-Curtis whose thrust then allowed first five-eighth Richie Mo'unga to choose the long ball to wing Seta Tamanivalu who ploughed over in the 19th minute.
 
From a long downfield kick by Mo'unga after a mark, the ball didn't cross the goalline but Jantjies pressed the ball for a 22m dropout. However, referee Angus Gardner invoked the new law where the ball hadn't crossed the plane and was therefore a five-metre scrum for the Crusaders.

Then the Lions were in more trouble when Mo'unga soared high to take a tactical kick from Jantjies. 

Coming to ground he slipped into space and put his speed to use to clear off downfield where centre Jack Goodhue took the pass and carried play towards the line. From the ruck, Hall fired a long pass which was taken by fullback David Havili to cross in the tackle.

Scrum power, after consecutive periods on attack which saw 17 and 11 phases respectively turned back, and a try denied, finally produced reward for the Lions. An earlier penalty advantage was played and the Lions called for a scrum, five metres out. However, the home scrum won a penalty and were, momentarily, able to clear the ball from trouble.
 
Opting to try something other than their lineout maul, the Lions worked to midfield where flanker Cyle Brink was stationed and able to break the defence and get into open space and run in a 58th minute try.

While Combrinck attempted a long shot to get the Lions within seven points, the kick failed and the Crusaders built from the 22m restart which was seized by a determined Tamanivalu.

Working the ball around the field at speed, the BNZ Crusaders got try scoring thrust from Mo'unga who took the ball to the line. Flanker Matt Todd made ground from the ruck and slipped a backhand pass to hooker Codie Taylor, who chose to pass for Drummond to score. 

Crotty was sin-binned for a foul in the 66th minute and Marx was finally able to get his hands on the ball and blasted his way through for a try.

Again the BNZ Crusaders responded immediately after the Lions interrupted a prospective move by putting the ball into touch. However, a quick throw allowed Bridge to make ground and link with replacement flanker Pete Samu, Drummond, and replacement hooker Andrew Makalio, whose quick pass gave lock Scott Barrett a try under the posts.


Scorers: BNZ Crusaders 37 (Seta Tamanivalu, David Havili, Mitchell Drummond, Scott Barrett tries; Richie Mo'unga 4 con, 3 pen) Lions 18 (Cyle Brink, Malcolm Marx tries; Elton Jantjies con, 2 pen). HT: 20-6