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Road to the Super Rugby Pacific Final: Crusaders

Thu, 16/06/2022, 1:26 am
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
The Crusaders hosted the Chiefs looking to book a spot in their 16th Super Rugby final.

The Crusaders will be out to cement their status as the dominant team in Super Rugby as they face the Blues in the inaugural Super Rugby Pacific Final.

The ten-time champions have peaked at the right time to remind everyone of their talent following a couple of shock defeats in the regular season.

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Rugby.com.au has looked back at how they got to the finals, pinpointing the key moments and matches that defined their season.

Setting the tempo

After winning Super Rugby Aotearoa and going unbeaten in Trans-Tasman, the Crusaders were quick to establish their title credentials against the Hurricanes in round one.

Leicester Fainga'anuku scored a double inside 15 minutes as they looked dominant even with Richie Mo'unga on the sidelines.

Fainga'anuku's third sealed the game and whilst the Hurricanes scored three late tries in ten minutes, the result was already out of the question as Scott Robertson's men started the year strong.

They would go on to win their first three games of the season before trading wins with the Chiefs, setting up the blockbuster Good Friday clash with the Blues.

The one that got away

The Crusaders will enter Saturday's Final will plenty of confidence, knowing how close they were to toppling the minor premiers in round nine.

The hosts found themselves down to 13 when David Havili was yellow carded before Scott Barrett's high shot left the referee little choice but to send him off.

Even after this, they were able to set up a grandstand finish when Reece dived over for his second.

It wasn't meant to be for the Crusaders as Dominic Gardiner was somehow held up with four minutes remaining, allowing the Blues to escape with the win.

The Leichhardt wake up

The decision to rest a host of star players came back to haunt the Crusaders when they suffered a shock loss to the Waratahs at Leichhardt Oval.

Even without the likes of Mo'unga, Bridge, Blackadder and Ennor, the visitors were expected to comfortably handle last year's wooden spooners.

However, they were shocked instantly after an early Dylan Pietsch try, failing to mount consistent pressure and phases as they were upset 24-21.

On reflection, this seems to be the defeat that kicked the side into gear, producing a dominant finish to the season to climb up the ladder and finish third.

Backing it up

Their quarter-final match-up with the Queensland Reds presented a unique challenge, with the two teams facing off in the final rounf of the regular season.

They both entered 2022 with plenty of hype after last year's respective domestic titles, however, found themselves overlooked by rivals Blues and Brumbies.

In the end, the Crusaders and the returning Richie Mo'unga found another level of intensity the understrength Reds just could not match, allowing them to cruise to victory.

The great wall of Christchurch

The Crusaders produced one of the finest defensive performances in Super Rugby history against the Chiefs to book their place in the Final.

They were forced to make a Super Rugby record 222 tackles in a heroic performance on a wet and windy night.

Cullen Grace's double was all that was needed, holding on for a famous win even if they saw themselves down a man for extended periods due to Pablo Matera's two yellow cards.

It extended their remarkable record of never losing a home knockout match, setting up the highly-anticipated Final against the Blues.

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