The Crusaders are the 2018 Super Rugby champions after they defeated the Emirates Lions 37-18 in a memorable final on Saturday at the AMI Stadium in Christchurch in front of a sell-out 19,600 fans.
Sam Whitelock’s team, playing their first Final at home since 2007, clinched their ninth tournament title and second championship in a row following their 25-17 triumph over the same opponents last year in Johannesburg. For the Highvelders it was a case of third time unlucky in as many successive finals.
The Emirates Lions had plenty opportunities in the match and they dominated territory and possession. However, the Crusaders made much better use of their scoring opportunities and with their solid defence they nullified most of the visitors’ attacking threats.
The champions scored two first-half tries through Seta Tamanivalu and David Havili, while flyhalf Richie Mo’unga added the rest of the points with some accurate goal kicking. Elton Jantjies (No 10) slotted two penalties for the visiting team, meaning the New Zealand outfit led 20-6 at halftime.
Hardworking flanker Cyle Brink scored the South African’s first try in the second half with a powerful surge from a set piece to close the gap to 23-13 but the home side soon hit back with another converted try by Mitchell Drummond to stretch their lead to 30-13.
When Ryan Crotty was sin binned for cynical play, powerful hooker Malcolm Marx stormed over near the left corner to score his side’s second try, his twelfth of the season.
The Crusaders hit back when lock Scott Barrett finished off a quick lineout move to score another converted try to take the final score to 37-18.
Saturday’s game was the first time in Super Rugby history that the same teams had contested consecutive finals.
Crusaders 37 Emirates Lions 18
Crusaders – Tries: Seta Tamanivalu, David Havili, Mitchell Drummond, Scott Barrett. Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (4). Penalties: Mo’unga (3).
Emirates Lions – Tries: Cyle Brink, Malcolm Marx. Conversion: Elton Jantjies. Penalties: Jantjies (2).