After two thrilling semi-finals, two New Zealand giants will battle it out in the inaugural Super Rugby Pacific Final next weekend as the Blues take on the Crusaders. Both sides had to do it the hard way to book their spots in the final, but there can be no argument that the two best sides in the tournament deserve their shot at glory.
With the Blues on a 15-match winning streak and the Crusaders on a 27-match winning streak in the playoffs, something will have to give next weekend.
Defence Carries the Crusaders to Another Final
The Crusaders sealed their place in the Super Rugby Pacific final on the back of a remarkable defensive performance on a rain-sodden pitch in Christchurch on Friday evening. They sealed their spot in a 16th final by seeing off the Chiefs 20-7 in a gutsy performance that saw the Crusaders finish the match with 254 tackles, a new record for the competition, and with them reduced to 14 men for almost 60 minutes.
The Crusaders grabbed the early initiative, and two Richie Mo’unga penalties and a converted Cullen Grace try saw them cruise into a 13-0 lead before the Chiefs hit back with a converted try from prop Angus Ta’avao who finished off a 15-phase attack.
However, the Crusaders then lost Pablo Matera, who picked up two yellow cards, and the Argentinian loose forward could now miss next weekend’s final. The loss of Matera galvanised the Crusaders, though, and Cullen Grace scored his second try of the match to see his side go in at half-time 20-7 up.
And despite the Chiefs chucking the proverbial kitchen sink at the Crusaders in the second half, they could not convert their pressure into points. So, Scott Robinson and his Crusader’s side will head to Auckland for next weekend’s Super Rugby Pacific final against the Blue, who edged out the Brumbies in an absolute thriller in the other semi.
Blues Cling on Against Brave Brumbies
The Blues booked their spot in the Super Rugby Pacific final after narrowly beating the brave Brumbies 20-19 at Eden Park, having led 20-7 at half-time. It was the visitors who took an early lead, though, with a converted Irae Simone try before they surrendered 20 straight points in a blitz by the Blues, who also missed five penalties in the opening 40.
The second half was one-way traffic from the Brumbies, who were aided in their quest by two yellow cards for the Blues, Kurt Eklund and Adrian Choat, both being binned. Two Lachlan Lonergan tries for the Brumbies put them within one point and set up a grandstand finish, and they had a chance to nick it, but fly-half Noah Lolesio’s drop-goal attempt was charged down.
So, it’s Leon MacDonald’s Blues side that will now host the Crusaders next Saturday in what’s likely to be a showdown between the 10s as Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga go head-to-head.