Efficient, ruthless Crusaders secure home final

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Lynn McConnell     28 Jul 2018     Getty Images

Backing that effort with outstanding defence, the Crusaders gave the Hurricanes few opportunities forcing them, especially in the second half when playing into the wind, to moving the ball back and forward across the field forever probing without finding the promised land.


That ensured the Crusaders would host next week's final against either the Lions or the Waratahs.

Directing proceedings with aplomb was first five-eighths Richie Mo'unga scoring the first try, adding penalty goals before halftime and unleashing long passes and tactical kicks in the second half to set up tries.

The Crusaders mid-fielders Ryan Crotty and Jack Goodhue denied Crusaders hard man and second five-eighths Ngani Laumape any influence, although it appeared the Hurricanes plan was to use him as a diversion with wing Julian Savea being called more often into play, and with effect.

But as the Hurricanes sought openings the Crusaders were not to be moved.

A three-try buffer quickly established after halftime ensured they could play a waiting game for frustration or error by the Hurricanes as the offensive gradient rose for them every minute they failed to score.

Even when wing Ben Lam finally got some space to kick into the Crusaders 22m, the home side rallied their defence quickly to stifle the opportunity.

Then, to ram home their message, the Crusaders worked their way back downfield to turn the assault back on the Hurricanes and it was Mo'unga's cross-kick to replacement wing Braydon Ennor that finally sealed the result, if not the final score with the 68th minute try.

Kicking, with a strong wind behind them in the first half, too often proved costly for the Hurricanes. In the first instance, Laumape attempted a grubber kick into the Crusaders' 22 area, but the ball was picked up by wing George Bridge who set off downfield.

The Hurricanes defence was guilty of conceding two high tackles by hooker Ricky Riccitelli and Laumape. From the penalty, Mo'unga kicked to the corner then from the lineout, a quick play was made as flanker Matt Todd bounced out of a tackle and towards the line.

From the ruck halfback Bryn Hall, who was a constant presence in feeding quality ball to Mo'unga, fired a long pass to the outside where Bridge was positioned to step back inside No.8 Blade Thomson's tackle to score.

Secondly, in attempting to clear ball from their 10m line, centre Jordie Barrett blasted a long kick downfield, but it rolled too far, giving the Crusaders the ball back in the Hurricanes half.

The Crusaders had attempted to up the tempo as opportunities presented themselves but the Hurricanes initially held them off with good tackling. But when Goodhue burst through and then headed back outside before a ruck was set which saw Mo'unga take the ball to the line and over.

But from the restart ruck Mo'unga was unable to take a pass and that allowed the Hurricanes to build pressure from a scrum and a long pass from fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder gave Savea a sniff, even with defenders at hand. But using his power he was ruled to have got the ball down in the corner for his 50th try for the Hurricanes.

Instead of scoring their usual pre-halftime try, the Crusaders landed two penalty goals.

Normal transmission returned at the start of the second half, however, as an attempted return kick by Milner-Skudder barely made ground and the Crusaders pounced with Mo'unga finding Goodhue with a long pass. He linked with Read and from the goalline ruck the ball was given to Havili charging into the line from standoff to score.

It was symbolic of the Hurricanes' night that after the final hooter had sounded the path was finally prised open after a tap penalty by halfback TJ Perenara which allowed Lam to cross for his 16th try of the season.

Scorers: Crusaders 30 (Richie Mo'unga, George Bridge, David Havili, Braydon Ennor tries; Mo'unga 2 con, 2 pen) Hurricanes 12 (Julian Savea, Ben Lam tries; Beauden Barrett con). HT: 18-7