Crusaders made to sweat by Jaguares for 10th Super Rugby title
It wasn’t a perfect 10 but that was hardly the double digit the Crusaders had in their crosshairs.
The hosts charged to their 10th Super Rugby in total‚ their third in a row‚ on Saturday by vanquishing the plucky Jaguares side 19-3 who were appearing in their first final.
Playing in their 14th final‚ the Crusaders never quite hit their straps but that was always going to be difficult against a Jaguares side that contested feverishly across the park.
Instead of dazzling in bitterly cold conditions‚ it was the home side’s unremitting defence that helped them win the day and Codie Taylor‚ Matt Todd‚ Sam Whitelock and Kieran Read were colossal in that regard.
The Jaguares probed direct and out wide but hardly made inroads against the sure first time tackling of the hosts.
The Crusaders’ scrum also proved a potent platform‚ which in turn gave flyhalf Richie Mo’unga the stage to shine with an unblemished performance off the kicking tee.
You got a greater sense that the Horsemen of the Apocalypse would be unleashed on the Jaguares when Crusaders coach Scott Robertson came out swinging before the game kicked off.
En route to his seat the exuberant coach veered left onto the field swinging his arms animatedly which served to whip up the crowd into a frenzy.
His team certainly played with a lot of intent from the outset but they were met by a near impenetrable Jaguares defence.
The visitors’ line speed and angle of attack at which they went into their leg tackles meant the Crusaders’ momentum was almost always stunted.
Those tackles also served to draw some uncharacteristic handling errors early on.
The Crusaders‚ however‚ were well in the ascendancy in the territory and possession stakes and when Jaguares’ flyhalf Joaquin Diaz Bonilla put his team into the lead with a penalty in the 26th minute‚ it came a little against the run of play.
Increasingly the visitors gained a foothold‚ lock Tomas Lavanini made some telling contributions in the line-out and tight loose‚ Pablo Matera toiled like a boiler maker‚ while captain Jeronimo De la Fuente‚ running on the angle‚ made some telling incursions.
When the Crusaders got on the board in the 25th minute‚ they too did so against the tide.
The Jaguares spilt a pass which allowed Crusaders captain Whitelock to thunder up the left hand touchline and with the cover defence closing‚ in a slight role reversal‚ he deftly transferred to hooker Codie Taylor who crashed over to score.
It handed the hosts the lead and reminded of their voraciousness when being fed scraps.
That, however, did not diminish the Jaguares’ appetite as they kept up the pressure and were perhaps unfortunate not to regain the lead before the break.
They squandered their best try scoring opportunity when right wing Matias Moroni lived up to part of his surname by losing the ball in the act of scoring in the 34th minute.
It was to cost them dearly.
The Crusaders cranked up the heat as the game crossed the 50-minute mark but the Jaguares continued to defend doggedly.
The persistent scrum pressure gradually took its toll however and it was Mo’unga’s boot that got the Crusaders out of sight.
CRUSADERS 19 (10) Try: Codie Taylor. Conversion: Richie Mo’unga. Penalties: Mo’unga (4). JAGUARES 3 (3) Penalty: Joaquin Diaz Bonilla
- Liam Del Carme travelled to the Super Rugby final as part of Vodacom’s Red Final Tour.