Defending champs defeat Emirates Lions to win ninth title
The Crusaders are the 2018 Vodacom Super Rugby champions after they defeated the Emirates Lions 37-18 in a memorable final on Saturday morning (SA time) at the AMI Stadium in Christchurch. The home side led 20-6 at halftime.
Sam Whitelock’s team clinched their ninth tournament title and second one in a row following their triumph over the same opponents last year in Johannesburg. For the Highvelders it was a case of third time unlucky in as many successive finals, but they gave a worthy effort against a classy Crusaders outfit.
The Emirates Lions had plenty of opportunities in the match and they dominated territory and possession. However, the Crusaders made much better use of their scoring opportunities and with their solid defence they nullified most of the visitors’ attacking threats.
The champions scored two first-half tries through Seta Tamanivalu and David Havili, while flyhalf Richie Mo’unga added the rest of the points with some accurate goal kicking. Elton Jantjies (No 10) slotted two penalties for the visiting team.
Hardworking flanker Cyle Brink scored the Highvelders’ first try in the second half with a powerful surge from a set piece to close the gap to 23-13 but the home side soon hit back with another converted try by Mitchell Drummond to stretch their lead to 30-13.
Warren Whiteley and his team refused to give up and piled on the pressure, and with Ryan Crotty in the bin for cynical play powerful hooker Malcolm Marx stormed over near the left corner to score his side’s second try and his twelfth of the season.
The Crusaders hit back in typical fashion and it was Scott Barrett (lock) who finished off a quick lineout move to score another converted try to take the final score to 37-18.
What they said:
Sam Whitelock, Crusaders captain: “It was an outstanding season for the Emirates Lions and they deserved to be in the final for a third year in a row. It’s pretty awesome to win the trophy back-to-back and the capacity crowd was absolutely superb tonight.”
Emirates Lions skipper, Warren Whiteley: “I am immensely proud of the guys but credit must go to Sam and his Crusaders team because they were unbelievable throughout the year. We tried everything and gave it our best effort – the Crusaders deserve their win and the title.”
Crusaders (20) 37, Emirates Lions (6) 18
Crusaders – Tries: Seta Tamanivalu, David Havili, Mitchell Drummond, Scott Barrett; Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (4). Penalties: Mo’unga (3).
Emirates Lions – Tries: Cyle Brink, Malcolm Marx;Conversion: Elton Jantjies; Penalties: Jantjies (2)