Written by Max Sharp.
A huge stream of Blues fans packed in to fill Eden Park to watch their home team defeat the visitors and become champions. Despite seeing a 43,000-strong crowd of people though, this away team was more than ready. The Crusaders, who I had completely written off after their shock loss to the Waratahs, came in fired up and were convincing through the entire game, from the 16-0 half-time score, to the final score of 21-7. This stunning 6th-straight title must surely have Scott Robertson lined up to be the next All Blacks coach. Let's read through the Crusaders from number 1 through to 23 and see how this final went!
Crusaders Player Ratings
Loosehead Prop - George Bower (7/10)
This was by no means a masterclass but Bower definitely outperformed his opponents in the scrum. Just 3 metres from 6 carries, but got to rucks as quick as possible. 5 tackles were a decent amount for the team's possession rate too.
Hooker - Codie Taylor (7/10)
Silenced the critics of his lineout throughout the season, while making 9 total tackles in his 57 minutes. Was more than happy to run 17 metres and beat 1 defender off his 6 carries, while 3 passes were able to free space for the backs.
Tighthead Prop - Oliver Jager (6/10)
A strong game from the number 3, who produced strong scrummaging and ruck speed. 4 tackles is pretty low, though he made 9 metres off 10 hard carries. These won't look pretty on Jager's own stat sheet, but they worked brilliantly in giving the backs what they needed.
Lock 4 - Scott Barrett (9/10)
Up against his older brother, who was also a captain on the day, Barrett definitely has the bragging rights now. Ran 28 metres and beat 1 defender from 13 carries, while his 11 tackles and 2 turnovers gave the Blues some humbling. Some great lineout steals too.
Lock 5 - Sam Whitelock (9/10)
Not much in terms of attack, with just 5 metres off 5 carries, though Whitelock's ruck presence had the Blues cowering. His 9 tackles were all robust hits, while his lineout steals and 2 turnovers were at crucial stages of the match. A great job of the basics.
Blindside Flanker - Pablo Matera (7/10)
Gave his medal to his child after the match, but deserved it very much. A classy grubber kick allowed Reece to score the final try, while Matera ran 11 metres and beat 2 defenders off 7 carries. 6 passes and 10 tackles were good to see too.
Openside Flanker - Tom Christie (8/10)
Went on 4 carries for 5 metres, while he cleaned out strongly in rucks. Christie's turnover was a try-saver, while he participated as a screen runner, with 2 passes. Christie's 17 tackles in this match finished his season with a total of 250. Massive effort.
Number 8 - Cullen Grace (7/10)
Stood up to Sotutu well, with 32 metres off 10 carries. Behaved like a proper tradesman-number 8 and made more passes than most of his backs, with 9. 14 tackles is a solid effort for just 57% possession too.
Halfback - Bryn Hall (7/10)
A season of poor game management and slow passing all seemed to disappear as Hall put that behind himself and delivered a strong package of brilliant communication and 80 passes, while scoring a smart try. A fitting way to finish his time with the team.
First-Five - Richie Mo'unga (10/10)
If you still think that Beauden Barrett is a better 10, there's nothing more I can say. For the fourth Super Rugby final in 6 years, Mo'unga was well and truly the best player. Ran 54 metres, beat 5 defenders and made 2 clean breaks off 7 carries, while his tactical kicking and drop goal delivered big blows to the Blues' psyche. Selected the carriers perfectly in all 26 of his passes as well. The Final's MVP without a doubt.
Left Wing - Leicester Fainga'anuku (8/10)
Treated as a real threat by the Blues, yet still ran 114 metres and beat 1 defender off 13 carries. His handling learned from last season, as a 13, assisted as Fainga'anuku made 5 passes and 2 offloads.
Second-Five - David Havili (9/10)
Absolutely embarrassed his opposite, in Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Provided the fourth kicking option much-needed for his side with some brilliant 50-22 kicks, while also running 40 metres and beating 2 defenders off 8 carries; he was indeed an effective crash-ball option (though this tactic should be avoided at test level).
Centre - Jack Goodhue (8/10)
Appeared to have finally returned his best, perfect timing. 46 metres, 3 defenders beaten and 1 clean break, off 6 carries, while delivering 6 passes and 1 offload. A strong defensive game from Goodhue too, with 8 tackles. Another player with bragging rights over his brother.
Right Wing - Sevu Reece (7/10)
A bit of a struggle to get space, but nailed it when it counted, collecting Matera's kick to score a try. Also ran 20 metres, beat 1 defender and made 1 clean break from 9 carries. A good distributing option, with 7 passes and 2 offloads. Made 6 tackles, while he also considered a drop goal at one stage. A 2023 World Cup spot is on the way.
Fullback - Will Jordan (9/10)
Read Beauden Barrett's kicking like a book and gained his team metres off the boot too many times to count. Jordan nailed 98 metres on foot too, also beating 3 defenders off 10 carries. A strong distributor with 11 passes too. The icing on the cake of a great year.
Reserve Hooker - Brodie McAlister (No rating)
Played 23 minutes but only made 4 tackles. McAlister won't be rated.
Reserve Loosehead Prop - Tamaiti Williams (8/10)
Ian Foster should be ashamed if Williams wasn't at least considered for selection this year. His best performance of the season, confirming the win with a strong scrum penalty. Also ran 3 metres off his single carry, while making 8 tackles.
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Fletcher Newell (7/10)
Aggressive runs by Newell shattered the Blues' tight five. The number 18 ran 10 metres off 4 carries, while he had a strong presence in the ruck. A great display in the scrum, while 5 tackles was a good defensive showing for a replacement.
Reserve Lock - Quinten Strange (No rating)
With just 3 tackles, it isn't fair to give Strange a rating.
Reserve Loose Forward - Corey Kellow (No rating)
Somehow he made 3 tackles in 2 minutes. You genuinely cannot rate a player on the pitch for such a short length of time though.
Reserve Halfback - Mitchell Drummond (6/10)
Looked a bit flustered with pressure applied on him by Christie, but went on to calmly close the game out. Also contributed 3 tackles to the mission. With Hall leaving, is Drummond going to start next season?
Reserve Midfielder - Braydon Ennor (No rating)
Played for just 13 minutes so won't be rated.
Reserve Outside Back - George Bridge (No rating)
In the same situation as Ennor, playing just 13 minutes.