2022 Blues vs Crusaders

Super Rugby Semis Recap: Blues, Crusaders To Clash In All-Kiwi Final

Super Rugby Semis Recap: Blues, Crusaders To Clash In All-Kiwi Final

The New Zealand-based Blues and Crusaders will meet next week in the 2022 Super Rugby final in Auckland, New Zealand.

Jun 11, 2022 by Briar Napier
Super Rugby Semis Recap: Blues, Crusaders To Clash In All-Kiwi Final

The final stage is set.

It took over four months of grueling, fast-paced rugby to get there, but after the Super Rugby semifinals concluded this weekend and confirmed who will play for a league title next weekend, it'll mark an end to what has been a thrilling return from COVID-influenced regional competitions the past two years.

New Zealand-based teams have been the stars of the show most of the year, and it will be the nation's top two teams competing for another trophy. However, there's plenty of historical implications on both sides. One is trying to build on an already-loaded legacy, and the other is trying to make sure a dream season ends in glory, rather than heartbreak.

How did the Blues and the Crusaders secure spots to next week's Super Rugby final in Auckland? Here's a look at what went down in the semifinal round this weekend as the tension ramped up to fever pitch in the Super Rugby season:

Blues Better Brumbies For First Final Since 2003

Two teams that have waited agonizingly long to be on top of the Super Rugby world again - neither side has won the competition since 2004 - the Blues and Brumbies semifinal had enormous expectation surrounding it after their classic Round 14 clash, when the Blues won with a field goal scored after the fulltime siren. 

It's safe to say the rematch lived up to the hype, but the victor stayed the same. 

The Blues' magical run of form continued to the tune of a 15th straight win (but only just) with a 20-19 nailbiter at Eden Park, as the Aucklanders advanced to their first Super Rugby final since 2003. 

A run of 20 unanswered points from the Blues after the Brumbies took a 7-0 lead to start was enough to hang on, even after Brumbies sub Lachie Longergan scored a pair of second-half tries to put the pressure on the Kiwis. 

With seconds remaining until the siren, Brumbies flyhalf Noah Lolesio's drop goal attempt, which would've given the Aussies the lead if converted, was smothered by the home side, letting coach Leon MacDonald's Blues escape by a razor-thin margin. 

With a first Super Rugby title in nearly two decades in sight, not only is the occasion historic for the Blues, but they also get the advantage of hosting the final and battling for silverware in front of waves of home support. And, with the way their club is playing right now, any ticket to the occasion is sure to be a hot commodity.

Crusaders Cruise Past Chiefs, Aim For Title No. 11

One thing was going to have to budge in the Crusaders-Chiefs semifinal. 

With the Chiefs being one of the competition's highest-scoring teams, while the Crusaders held Super Rugby's best defensive record, a soggy pitch in Christchurch ahead of Friday's meeting was sure to make things interesting on both ends. 

The type of performance that the Crusaders put up to secure a 16th appearance in the final was nothing short of defensive magic. 

The three-time defending Super Rugby champions (dating back to pre-COVID regional competitions in 2019) put up a season-high for tackles with 254 in their 20-7 victory over the Chiefs, setting up the opportunity for Super Rugby's most successful team to possibly add another etch in its storied history. 

A pair of tries from 22-year-old lock Cullen Grace gave coach Scott Robertson's side the breakthrough it needed, as little got past the Crusaders' defense, with the Chiefs being held to single digits in a match for just the second time in 2022, despite holding a commanding lead (62%-38%) on possession. 

The important part with that fact, however, is that the Chiefs only spent a total of 10.7% of that time in the Crusaders' half, spending more time trying to maneuver around the defense they faced in their own half than seriously threatening to score, shown by the fact that an Angus Ta'avao try was the only thing the Chiefs could manage. 

With the Blues having stolen the show for most of this year's competition due to its long win streak, the Crusaders have been a bit under the radar in an unfamiliar position. But, with the possibility to win Super Rugby title No. 11 next week, perhaps it was silly to think Crusaders weren't favorites all along.

New Zealand Club Rugby Reigns

To be fair, Super Rugby's format has changed a lot recently - South Africa, Argentina and Japan made up six of the 15 teams in 2019, after all - and has made it easier for squads from one specific area to rule, especially considering 2022's competition only features sides from New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific islands (in Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua). 

The sheer dominance put on for most of the Super Rugby season by Kiwi teams has been a treat to watch, and it is evidenced by the fact that Super Rugby will get its first all-New Zealand final since 2015 next weekend in Auckland. 

With the Brumbies' narrow loss to the Blues at Eden Park, it made for 13 consecutive playoff defeats in New Zealand for Australian teams and ruined the country's hopes for its first Super Rugby champion since 2014, when the New South Wales Waratahs pulled off the feat. 

The Kiwis' might against their opponents across the Tasman Sea stretched well beyond the postseason, too. New Zealand clubs were 21-8 overall against Australian sides, dating back to when the Trans-Tasman portion of the calendar began in Round 10, with the Brumbies and the Tahs the only Aussie teams to secure multiple wins against teams hailing from their neighboring country. 

Both the Blues and the Crusaders are well-deserved finalists, but only one team can claim themselves as not just the top team of Super Rugby - but also the top team in their home country.