Crusaders win title No.8
SUPER RUGBY MATCH REPORT: The Crusaders won their eighth title when they beat a 14-man Lions team 25-17 at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Wonderful! It was a wonderful occasion - a wonderful crowd, a wonderful match, a wonderful winning team and a wonderful losing team.
It was a match of astonishing bravery and determination, a match that grew so exciting as the Lions fought back towards the end with the support of the record crowd for a Super Rugby Final, mostly wearing the red of the Lions, disappointed at the end but not, you felt, downhearted.
The team that won deserved to win. Rugby has two main facets - attack and defence. The Crusaders won both, scoring three tries to two. They scored early and the Lions scored late. But it may just have been the Crusaders harsh defence that earned them their victory. Not that the Lions were faulty on defence, though their defence had more give than that of the Crusaders.
The Crusaders had to tackle, for the Lions got 68% of possession and so the visitors had to make roughly twice as many tackles. There were three aspects to the success of their defence - numbers, speed and aggression. When a Lion was tackled, the Crusaders put hardly any players in the tackle area and so they had a line of players strung across the field. When the ball was in play they sped up on defence so that the Lion who received a pass had a Crusader up, close and unfriendly. Then they tackled with aggression, driving the Lions back.
The result for the Crusaders was that after 63 minutes, they were leading 25-3. That the Lions came back as well as they did speaks volumes for their spirit and ability. They scored two tries against the Crusaders and that was at a time when they were down to 14 men.
It was a wonderful match, played at a high tempo and in a good spirit. And maybe, just maybe, there may be some praise for the officiating of Jaco Peyper, even from the people, mostly anonymous, who were so vociferous in their criticismbefore the match.
The atmosphere in the great stadium, packed with 65 000 excited spectators, as it was for the 1995 Rugby World Cup final. The teams were the top two in Super Rugby this year, No.1 was playing No.2 at No.1's home ground, No.2 with a much better record in finals. After all it was their 12th final and they had seven wins before this. Now they have a r4ecord eight victories.
There was a countdown, Peyper blew his whistle and Richie Mo'unga kicked off. A penalty got the Lions into the Crusaders' 22 where they mauled. They were attacking, the defence was quick, and hard and Elton Jantjies missed a drop attempt.
The Lions stayed bashing and then Kieran Read tackled Jantjies. The ball bobbled free on the Crusaders side and off Seta Tamanivalu went racing down the left touchline through empty acres to score, after a 75-metre run, in the left corner. After 8 minutes, the Crusaders led 5-0.
Then came an unforced error of serious consequences. Jantjies kicked the kick-off directly into touch. The Crusaders opted for a scrum, in the middle of the half-way line. The Crusaders bashed in attack with Cody Taylor in the van. They bashed left, then right and then wide left where Read gave Jack Goodhue a perfect pass to send him hurtling over in the left corner. From touch, Mo'unga converted. 12-0 after 12 minutes.
There was lots of excitement after this as Andries Coetzee, Malcolm Marx and Kwagga Smith made ground. Jordan Taufua won a turnover off Lionel Mapoe and the Crusaders were attacking again. They went wide to Israel Dagg who would have scored but for a brilliant tackle by Courtnall Skosan. Jaco Kriel had one of his determined runs and David Havili missed a long penalty attempt when Jantjies was offside at a scrum.
The scrums were a mess. Just three of 14 were in and out without other problems. Seven were penalised. Seven scrum penalties out of 22 penalties in the match. It was a scrum penalty which Jantjies goaled to get the Lions on the scoreboard. 12-3 after 26 minutes. It was over a half-an-hour's playing time that the Lions next scored.
The Lions were forced on hectic defence when Read partially charged a kick by Ruan Combrinck near the Lions' line. Then a penalty for a deliberate knock-on set the Lions attacking, and Marx and Kriel were close to scoring.
The Lions won a Crusaders' line-out, and it had dire consequences for them, the Lions. Jantjies kicked an up-and-under. David Havili ran in and jumped high to catch the ball. Kwagga Smith stayed on the ground but he, on the ground, made contact with Havili in the air. Havili came tumbling to earth, head first. The referee examined the incident and the upshot was a red card for Smith, who trudged off disconsolate after 38 minutes.
There was a scrum. The eight Crusaders destroyed the seven Lions and Mo'unga goaled the subsequent penalty. That made the score 15-3 at half-time.
Right at the start of the second half the Crusaders attacked. From the left Mo'unga lofted a diagonal to Dagg, which gave the Crusaders a chance to bash again. They then went left where Read came flying through for a try under the posts. 22-3 after 43 minutes.
Wyatt Crockett came on for the 187th time for the Crusaders. Ryan Crotty broke with deceptive strength and speed and Mo'unga goaled another scrum penalty. 25-3 after 52 minutes. For the last 28 minutes the Crusaders did not score a point.
Johan Janse van Rensburg broke clean through ands gave to Marx who pounded ahead. With no support he grubbered to his left.
Two penalties gave the Lions two five-metre line-outs. The Lions mauled, the Crusaders repelled, the Lions advanced and with a quick pass from Faf de Klerk Marx scored. Jantjies converted from touch. 25-10 after 64 minutes.
The Lions attacked again. Franco Mostert burst vat the line, but they lost the ball. Mapoe broke and Coetzee was close. The Lions bashed and Skosan was close. And then, finally, Corné Fourie burst through a tackle to score under the posts. 25-17 with 8 minutes to play.
The Lions ran from within their own half as the crowd kept up their support. And suddenly the match was over.
Man of the Match: The Lions had candidates, like Andries Coetzee, Ross Cronje, Jaco Kriel and Franco Mostert. The Crusaders had more candidates - David Havili, Richie Mo'unga, Kieran Read and Matt Todd, Codie Taylor and our choice Ryan Crotty who made the winning defence work and can catch, pass and run better than the best.
Moment of the Match: Seta Tamanivalu's try, such a turnaround, such a shock, such a warning shot.
Villain of the Match: an unintending one but nonetheless for harm he did to David Havili and the effect it had on his side, Kwagga Smith.
For the Lions:
Tries: Marx, Fourie
Cons: Jantjies 2
For the Crusaders:
Tries: Tamanivalu, Goodhue, Read
Cons: Mo'unga 2
Pens: Mo'unga 2
Red card: Albertus Smith (Lions, 38 - foul play, playing the man in the air)
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Albertus Smith, 6 Jaco Kriel (captain), 5 Francois Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Francois de Klerk, 22 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 23 Sylvian Mahuza.
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Seta Tamanivalu, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 George Bridge.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)