Mo'unga inspires Crusaders to successful Super Rugby title defence
Emphatic 37-18 victory for Canterbury over Lions as they make home advantage count
Richie Mo'unga pulled all the strings as the Canterbury Crusaders beat the Golden Lions 37-18 to claim a ninth Super Rugby title and their second in a row on Saturday.
The defending champions produced an heroic defensive effort with Mo'unga clinically engineering the points when chances arose.
The fly-half had a hand in all the scoring moves as the Crusaders led 20-6 at half-time and then responded with a try after both of the Lions' tries in the second period.
The South African visitors enjoyed nearly two-thirds of possession and territory throughout the final, but could not produce the variety of play to crack the Crusaders' defence.
Six times when they tried their most potent weapon, the driving maul, they were pushed back.
"To do it last year and do it again was pretty special," said coach Scott Robertson who celebrated with his trademark breakdance.
"Our maul defence was huge. It had to be. If they had scored two or three times they win. For us as group it depends how much you care. We won it on defence last year and did it again this year."
Robertson was especially pleased that with the game won the Crusaders spent more than two minutes at the end without letting the Lions in.
"You know your team's tight when they do that," he said.
Lions skipper Warren Whiteley said that as much as he was disappointed at losing a third consecutive five, the Crusaders were the better team.
"Obviously I'm gutted, a bit emotional to be honest," he said. "We gave it everything out there and credit must go to the Crusaders they were unbelievable.
"Everything we threw at them they stopped. We tried everything, threw the kitchen sink at them and they deserved this win."
The Crusaders outscored the Lions by four converted tries to two and man-of-the-match Mo'unga added three penalties as Super Rugby's dominant side stretched their winning streak to 15 matches.
The Lions have a reputation for being slow starters, as they were in last year's final in Johannesburg when they trailed 25-3 at half-time and lost 25-17.
But a year on, they were fired up at the start and applied the early pressure.
Ruan Combrinck sliced through Kieran Read and Sam Whitelock on a 40-metre dash to the line, where the Lions pounded the Crusaders defence for 10 minutes.
But the best they could achieve was three points from an Elton Jantjies penalty.
The Crusaders struck back immediately with a penalty from Mo'unga, whose overhead pass then put Seta Tamanivalu over in the corner.
A raking Mo'unga kick and a Jantjies error won the Crusaders a five-metre scrum which led to Mo'unga's second penalty, before the fly-half took a high ball under pressure and launched a counter-attack that led to David Havili's try.
After Jantjies and Mo'unga traded penalties either side of half-time, Cyle Brink scored the Lions' first try to close the gap to 23-13.
While the Crusaders were primed to protect their line, they were also ready to strike back when necessary.
Mitchell Drummond went under the posts to reopen a 17-point margin, and when Malcolm Marx scored for the Lions - with the Crusaders' Ryan Crotty in the sin-bin - the home side effectively sealed victory with a try to Scott Barrett.
Updated: August 4, 2018 03:42 PM