Date published: August 4 2018
A ninth Super Rugby title in the trophy cabinet for the Crusaders and in truth there has not been a more deserving champion than in 2018.
Their impressive season read played 19, won 17, as they steamrolled their way to the silverware, leaving all their rivals on their knees.
Saturday’s win over the Lions has been seen so often from this Crusaders side as, despite little possession or territory, they never looked in trouble as they cruised to victory, with the Lions visibly sucked of the confidence they gained from the semi-final win over the ‘Tahs.
The Crusaders’ only defeats this term came in Rounds 4 and 5 – to the Hurricanes and Highlanders – but since that March 17 loss they have rarely had a gloved laid on them. If Leinster are the most complete outfit in the north then the Crusaders are their southern equivalent.
Experienced heads throughout their pack set the platform throughout 2018 while the backline boasts a mixture of young talent combined with seasoned veterans such as Ryan Crotty and Bryn Hall, the latter visibly enjoying a new lease of life since his switch from the Blues. And while the form of young quartet Scott Barrett, Richie Mo’unga, Jack Goodhue and George Bridge deserves praise, this whole squad has shone.
Leading them has been Scott Robertson, whose stock has been on a steep upward curve for several years after success at Canterbury and now back-to-back Super Rugby titles at the Crusaders. He’s built a team that has an incredible ability to play in any conditions, with little ball, but can also entertain, with Mo’unga the catalyst of their transition from defence to attack. The pivot is our player of the season.
Coming into this game much of the talk had been of the Lions’ strength, which is the driving maul. But Robertson, as he has so often done, negated that threat with the homework clearly done during this week. That frustration forced the Lions into chancing their arm and ultimately making errors, the most costly being Elton Jantjies’ blunder on his own try-line which proved a decisive moment.
One shouldn’t point any fingers though and the Lions should also hold their heads high after another final appearance, coming up short for a third year running. Clearly they’ve a lot to work on in terms of game management in pressure moments but will learn from this experience.
In contrast and worryingly for the Lions and those elsewhere, there are the hallmarks of a dynasty forming in Christchurch as they made it title number nine. Few would back against them making it 10 next season, as that sticky spell being stuck on seven is now a distant memory.