2022 Blues vs Crusaders

Super Rugby Final: Crusaders Romp Blues To Win 11th Super Rugby Title

Super Rugby Final: Crusaders Romp Blues To Win 11th Super Rugby Title

Super Rugby's Crusaders put up a stellar performance and extended their record for the most titles in the league's history with a win over the Blues.

Jun 19, 2022 by Briar Napier
Super Rugby Final: Crusaders Romp Blues To Win 11th Super Rugby Title

There were plenty of fans at Auckland's Eden Park hoping for history nearly 20 years in the making this weekend.

For the Crusaders in their Super Rugby final triumph over the Blues, however, they've done well to make major success look routine.

Super Rugby's most successful team put up another stellar final performance (on away soil, no less), as the Crusaders extended their record for the most titles in the league's history with a win over the upstart Blues, who came up just shy of capping off a historic season with a monumental conclusion.

As proven so often in Super Rugby, to get to silverware, you almost certainly have to get through the Crusaders. And, for recent times, no one has been able to prove they're capable of doing that when it matters most.

Here's what went down at the thrilling Super Rugby Final, finishing off a super season of arguably the world's top club rugby competition in style:

The Dynasty Rolls On

A lot has changed in the world of Super Rugby over the past few years. What didn't change, however, was the champion. 

Three summers since they last had the chance to defend their Super Rugby title, the Crusaders finally secured their record 11th championship (and fourth straight since 2017, not counting the 2020 and 2021 regional competitions), with a 21-7 win over the Blues, stunning the Aucklanders on their home turf and denying them a historic first league crown in nearly two decades. 

The Crusaders were more dominant than the score indicated, striking first through a Richie Mo'unga drop goal in the 13th minute, before a Bryn Hall try (and subsequent conversion) shortly before halftime, upped their advantage to 13-0 at halftime. 

There briefly was a sign of second-half life in the Blues camp when Finlay Christie crossed the try line in the 59th minute - to which Stephen Perofeta followed with a conversion - to make it a more manageable 16-7 scoreline, following a Mo'unga penalty early in the half. 

Crusaders and All Blacks centre Sevu Reece put any hopes of a late comeback to bed with a try in the 76th minute, capping off the Cantabrians' stellar Super Rugby final performance in style.

Coach Scott Robertson now has won the same amount of Super Rugby titles as a coach for the team (four) as he did as a player for them (from 1996-2003), further cementing his status as one of the top coaches in club rugby. Doing it on an enemy pitch with so much time off since the last proper Super Rugby season just made it that much more special.

Blues' Epic Run Comes Up Brutally Short

If you had told most Blues fans at the beginning of the season that they'd be 80 minutes from a Super Rugby championship - and hosting the final, no less - they probably would've laughed in your face. 

After losing in the 2011 semifinals, the Aucklanders went through a miserable decade in which they never finished higher than ninth in the table, nor qualified for the postseason. 

In fact, it was just four years ago the Blues finished 14th in the then 16-team league, sitting on one of their lowest point totals (22) and worst point differentials (-131) in their history.

The appointment of former Crusaders assistant Leon MacDonald as coach in late 2019 turned out to be a monumental one. All the former All Black did this year was lead the Blues to one of the longest winning streaks in Super Rugby history at 16 games, installing a fast-paced style of rugby that propelled them to the top of the table for much of the second half of the regular season. 

Wing and 23-year-old Caleb Clarke developed into a star this year under his tutelage, while even established names like World Cup-winning five-eighth Beauden Barrett excelled even while being amid a latter stage in their career. 

The dream of getting the Blues their first Super Rugby title since 2003 wasn't quite realized, but if the squad can keep the band together for 2023, the Blues very well could be right in the thick of the favorites conversation once again.

Defense Wins Championships

No squad in Super Rugby played more consistent defense week in and week out than the Crusaders, but the team especially locked down across the playoff rounds, making it little surprise they're now able to celebrate title No. 11. 

Dating back to the Round 14 game against Fijian Drua, the Crusaders allowed 47 points across the final two regular season matches. In their three playoff wins, an average of just 9.4 points allowed per game. 

Lock and captain Scott Barrett, who faced opposing captain and brother Beauden in this weekend's final, was sublime throughout the playoffs, being an instrumental piece behind a unit that was able to stuff Blues attack after Blues attack in Auckland. 

Throw in some additional physicality behind it as the Crusaders won the ruck battle 112-77, and Robertson's strategy to force the Blues to adapt to what their opponents do, rather than the other way around, played well on a wet pitch for the final at Eden Park. 

All season, it seemed like the Crusaders weren't in their usual position of being the unquestioned top team in the competition, rather lurking in the shadows for their chance to shine. 

In this year's edition of the Super Rugby playoffs, they got that chance and took it even without much of the flash that other teams showed. A championship still feels deserved nonetheless.