The Crusaders have again proved themselves the masters of pressure in Super Rugby, emerging 19-3 winners over the Jaguares in the competition’s lowest-scoring final.
Cold, slippery conditions in Christchurch on Saturday turned the decider into a defence-dominated contest, which would always be won by the team who took their opportunities best.
Not surprisingly, that was the Crusaders, whose nous and accuracy steered them to a 10th crown, seven more than any other side.
It was also their third title in a row, matching their achievement of 1998-2000 and further cementing their undisputed status as the competition’s pre-eminent team.
The Jaguares, contesting their first final, shaded most of the game’s possession and territory statistics and created three of the game’s clearest try-scoring chances, all to winger Matias Moroni.
However, none was finished, while Crusaders hooker Codie Taylor bagged the game’s only try, midway through the first half.
The other 14 points came via five from five shots at goal by Richie Mo’unga.
Jaguares five-eighth Joaquin Diaz Bonilla scored their only points with the game’s opening penalty goal.
Slowly strangled out of the contest, a Jaguares team dominated by Pumas internationals could at least reflect on a breakthrough campaign in just their fourth season.
They won 11 of 12 games leading into the final and more than held their own, particularly in the collisions, where ferocious defence knocked the hosts off their stride.
The two teams had scored 148 tries between them before the final but neither found their rhythm, with Taylor’s score against the run of play handing his team a flattering 10-3 halftime lead.
The try capped some fine build-up work by fellow-All Blacks forwards Matt Todd, who ripped the ball clear in a maul, Kieran Read and Sam Whitelock.
The closing minutes of the first half proved pivotal.
Moroni botched a clear try-scoring chance close to the line and his team fell asleep defensively after the hooter, allowing the Crusaders to launch a sweeping attack which resulted in a penalty goal to Mo’unga.
It gave the Crusaders a flattering 10-3 lead and they slowly built on that in a grinding second spell, with three further Mo’unga penalty goals.
The previous lowest-scoring final was the Hurricanes’ 20-3 win four years ago over the Lions.
Pens: Mo’unga 4
Pens: Diaz Bonilla
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