Scott Robertson, a member of the playing staff at the Crusaders the last time they won a hat-trick of titles, now makes himself the first man to have won three Super Rugby titles in a row both on and off the field.
The three-peat wasn’t an all time classic but the winners never care about things like that, it’s about getting that medal around your neck…..or tankard in hand as was the case on Saturday evening in a freezing Christchurch.
The Crusaders were certainly not at their fluid best in the freezing conditions but their adaptability in the first half to repel the constant barrage of attacking play from the travelling Argentinians during some periods just goes to prove that Robertson has created a squad that can win no matter what the situation or environment that is presented to them.
The main offensive and defensive stats levelled themselves out in the end and the 16-point victory possibly flattered the men from Canterbury but to their credit, when chances presented themselves, they were gobbled up like a hungry hippo.
The Jaguares may have a few regrets from this final on the other hand. Missed opportunities at pivotal times were probably the only thing that separated these two teams on the day.
Matias Moroni will have some sleepless nights over two incidents in the game. In the first half he looked odds on to score or offload to his support runners but somehow got caught in two minds and David Havili made a try scoring intervention.
Early in the second it was that man again that was afforded space by an incredibly cute chip and chase to himself.
This time he did try and go outside his opponent but his offload was behind Matias Orlando for what would have been a certain try.
Moroni may have the spotlight shone on him for the opportunities that he missed at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second but it wasn’t just the Jaguares’ winger that was guilty of such profligacy.
Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, the Jaguares fly-half, ran out of ideas at times and with his attacking line not making progress, he kicked away cheap ball time and time again. Sometimes he was right to kick but his execution of the skill was where it all fell apart for him.
He was releasing the pressure valve for the Crusaders by doing so. Dropping back in the pocket became his comfort blanket.
Another big moment came on the stroke of half-time. Moroni had just lost the chance to put his team in the lead and the Crusaders had a scrum in the middle of the field, on their own 22.
The hooter went as Bryn Hall fed the scrum and the Jaguares duly switched off. Hall had a dart and before you knew it, Braydon Ennor was away down the left flank. A few phases later and Richie Mo’unga was pointing towards the posts to make the half-time score 10-3 to the home team and not 8 or 10-7 to the men in orange.
Games and Championships turn on such moments.
The final moment that finally ended the visitors’ challenge though was a through kick from Domingo Miotti that just went dead before Moroni could get his hands on it and dot down.
It was said in commentary and in the aftermath of the game, that if the ground hadn’t been so slippery and cold that the ball would have stood up and the try would have been scored but I don’t buy into that at all.
The kick execution was poor because it was too flat and too hard. The space that was afforded to Miotti to try and drop the ball into was significant and with some more elevation and a gentler touch, that ball would have stopped in the area that it needed to for the score.
It’s the perfect example of why the Crusaders won this match and the Jaguares didn’t. Their execution wasn’t quite on the money.
As the weariness of the travelling and a gruelling match set in, the Crusaders, as they do so well, squeezed the last remaining drops of life out of their visitors and with it went their hopes of causing a huge upset.
Without trying to sound condescending, the fact that the Jaguares didn’t get stage fright on the biggest stage and really took it to the Crusaders in a stadium that they haven’t lost in for over 30 matches now shows that this squad are here to stay and hopefully their time will come.
It’s great for Southern Hemisphere rugby to have someone new in the Super Rugby Final and with so many Kiwi squads disbanding next season maybe, finally, the New Zealand grip on the title can be loosened and the trophy can head elsewhere for a change.
Photo Credit: Steve Haag Sports