Super Rugby Pacific: Clinical Crusaders topple frontrunning Blues to claim 13th Super Rugby crown

The clinical Crusaders have toppled the frontrunning Blues to snatch their 13th Super Rugby title, prevailing 21-7 at a soldout Eden Park.

While the home side carried a 15-game winning streak into the championship decider, they were never allowed into the contest by the competition powerhouse, who showed their experience on the big occasion.

From the third minute, when Blues hooker Kurt Eklund saw his throw-in batted back on the Crusaders side of the very first lineout, the Aucklanders simply could not trust their sideline set-piece, eventually losing eight off their own throw.

The southerners exploited that Achilles heel throughout the match, but had only a Richie Mo'unga drop goal and penalty to show for it, with halftime fast approaching.

Sevu Reece celebrates the Crusaders victory
Sevu Reece celebrates the Crusaders victory. Photo credit: Photosport

Powerful winger Leicester Fainga'anuku was held up over the line once and dragged down short by desperate defence on a couple of other forays. With the locker-room beckoning, he made another bid, supported by flanker Pablo Matera, before halfback Bryn Hall forced on the tryline.

The 13-0 halftime scoreline represented the first time in seven years the Blues had been held scoreless at their fortress and their mountain became a little steeper, when Mo'unga added another penalty soon after the break.

Momentum shifted slightly midway through the second half, when halfback Finlay Christie bustled No.8 Cullen Grace at the back of a Crusaders defensive scrum and snaffled the loose ball to break the Blues drought.  

Moments later, Mo'unga missed his first kick of the night, leaving another penalty short and the door ajar.

The Blues entered the Crusaders 22 again, when Christie hacked the ball downfield from a Crusaders scrum, but they could not capitalise and the comeback wilted.

Moments from fulltime, the Blues cover-defence overran a clever kick by Matera into the corner and winger Sevu Reece was on hand to put the game beyond reach for the hosts.

Already in charge of lineouts the Cantabrians struck a blow at scrumtime, when their young reserves overpowered a Blues front row anchored by All Blacks props Karl Tu'inukuafe and Ofa Tuungafasi.

After a record-breaking season, the Blues must return to the drawing board, but can at least bank some painful finals disappointment at the hands of the masters.

The Crusaders can celebrate their sixth consecutive Super Rugby title - no-one (not even the winning Blues) seem to count last year's Trans Tasman competition.

Special mention should be made of referee Ben O'Keeffe, who did his part to ensure the match remained evenly contested, refusing to issue early cards - or even penalties - to Blues prop Nepo Laulala and Crusaders midfielder Jack Goodhue for incidental high contact.  

Crusaders 21 (Hall & Reece tries; Mo'unga conversion, drop goal & 2 penalties) Blues 7 (Christie try; Perofeta conversion)