Crusaders punish Lions to defend Super Rugby title

Mayor Lianne Dalziel with Sam Kendrew and staff at Placemakers Riccarton winners of a Crusaders best-dressed competition

JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON STUFF Mayor Lianne Dalziel with Sam Kendrew and staff at Placemakers Riccarton winners of a Crusaders best-dressed competition

He was, he says, "ecstatic" a year ago in Johannesburg when the Crusaders broke their championship drought with a Super Rugby title in the Lions den, but it was more like relief for head coach Scott Robertson as his side repeated their feat in Christchurch.

"I'm gutted to be honest, just incredibly emotional, but I'm immensely proud of every individual", Lions captain Warren Whiteley said.

"Defence goes to show how much we love each other, how much we care", Mo'unga said.

"Today five years ago is when we gained promotion back to Super Rugby". It will be the Wallabies' best chance of a victory over their old foe, and after they won their last meeting in Brisbane previous year, confidence will be high.

According to Planet Rugby, Tamanivalu did a good job to shut out Hurricanes Ben Lam in the semi-final and again his presence will haunt the Lions after his 116-metre dash to score in the final past year.

Whiteley said it was tough having been beaten three times in a row in the finals and then added. The only change to the Crusaders side that whipped the Wellington Hurricanes last week sees Heiden Bedwell-Curtis replace injured flanker Jordan Taufua, with Wallabies back-rower Pete Samu on the bench.

"Credit must go to the Crusaders.To Sam and his team they were unbelievable". This whole week we believed we could win this game and during the game, we also believed we were in it.

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Rather than going to the openside, the Lions chose to play the blind and the decision backfired as the Crusaders rallied and defended their own line before forcing an error.

His first moment of class occurred in the 20th minute as he delayed a pass on the fringes before cutting out two defenders and finding departing All Black Seta Tamanivalu on the wing, who showed too much strength to score out wide. "That's how we got our first try, we got behind him". It was clearly a weapon of the Lions that the Crusaders had done their homework on, and the visitors were simply never able to get their maul working.

It was then the Crusaders fully revealed the qualities of a champion team.

Mo'unga's brilliant season ended with a man-of-the-match display in the final.

Mo'unga converted both and slotted twin penalties while opposite Elton Jantjes notched his second penalty goal on the stroke of halftime.

The Lions continued to hammer at the Crusaders to the point that by the time Brink had smashed his way through two tackles and ran 25 metres to reduce the deficit to 23-13 the tide appeared to have turned. "It has to be about the team, just about the team and stick to what works for us". The Lions kept the pressure on and, when center Ryan Crotty was sin-binned, the 14-man Crusaders' defense yielded a try to hooker Malcolm Marx - his 12th of the season - which cut the lead to 30-18. Meanwhile, Bulls coach John Mitchell, who was a year ago linked with the Sables coaching job, is reported to be unhappy with his player budget and has requested R90 million from the Bulls board to help turn the franchise into a dominant force in Super Rugby again.

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