Mo'unga sparkles as Crusaders claim New Zealand Super crown

It is the Crusaders' second crown in two seasons of the New Zealand competition, to go with their 10 titles in 24 years in the multi-national tournament.

Crusaders fans at the Super Rugby Aotearoa final match between the Crusaders and the Chiefs in  Christchurch on 8 May 2021. Picture: @crusadersrugby/Twitter

CHRISTCHURCH - A Richie Mo'unga masterclass saw the Canterbury Crusaders overcome two yellow cards to defend their Super Rugby Aotearoa crown with a 24-13 victory over the Waikato Chiefs in Christchurch on Saturday.

For a period in the second half when the Crusaders were defending a narrow 15-13 lead, they were down to 13 men, with All Blacks Codie Taylor and Sevu Reece in the sin-bin.

But flyhalf Mo'unga, whose footwork had baffled the Chiefs through much of the match, refused to be flustered as he produced raking touch finders to force them back and extended the scoreline with a drop goal and a penalty.

By the time the Crusaders were back to a full complement of 15 they were 21-13 ahead with 12 minutes to play and Mo'unga added a further penalty to settle the score.

In a clash of Test match intensity before a sold-out crowd of 17,400, McKenzie scored 14 of the Crusaders' points, while Damian McKenzie produced all the Chiefs' points with a converted try and two penalties.

It is the Crusaders' second crown in two seasons of the New Zealand competition, to go with their 10 titles in 24 years in the multi-national tournament.

For the Chiefs, it was a disappointing end to what had been a stunning turn-around after they lost their first two matches to extend their losing streak to a record 11 games.

Under interim coach Clayton McMillan, who has taken the reins while Warren Gatland prepares the British and Irish Lions, the Chiefs won their next five games to make the finals, with Damian McKenzie producing the winning points in the dying minutes of four of them.

But in the final, when it mattered most, McKenzie missed three handy penalties around half-time which would have seen them take the lead.

The Chiefs started strongly, but an intercept by Ethan Blackadder rescued the Crusaders when they were defending desperately and sparked a counter attack which paved the way for the Crusaders' first try by Reece six minutes into the game.

After a McKenzie penalty for the Chiefs, a David Havili chip kick produced their second try to Will Jordan.

The Chiefs were down 12-3 when they produced an innovative lineout drive, with most of the backs joining in before spinning the ball wide and the elusive McKenzie was on hand to score in the opposite corner.

A McKenzie penalty after 59 minutes narrowed the gap to two points before Mo'unga's boot wrapped up the game for the Crusaders.

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