The Canterbury Crusaders, the table-topping and two-time defending Tremendous Rugby champions, performed eighth-placed and 2015 Tremendous Rugby champions Otago Highlanders in Christchurch, the place the house aspect hadn’t misplaced a sport since final yr.
There was motion from the beginning. The Crusaders received a penalty within the second minute by way of Richie Mo’unga, however the Highlanders scored the primary attempt of the play-offs within the 16th minute of the sport by way of Sio Tomkinson, who scored on the again of Ben Smith making a break and a very good set of passes from the Crusaders.
Josh Ioane concerted the try-making it 7-Three in favour of the Highlanders. Up till the 16th minute the guests had received 20 rucks, however the Crusaders scored two tries within the 21st minute and the 27th minute by way of fullbacks David Havili and Richie Mo’unga respectively, with Mo’unga changing each.
A sequence of passes and an amazing help from Mo’unga led to Havili’s attempt, and Mo’unga scored six minutes later by way of a Sevu Reece line break and a Whetu Douglas run, which he completed in model.
The house favourites led 17-7 earlier than the Highlanders struck again within the 35th minute by way of an exquisite play by All Black halfback Aaron Smith and a few silky passes resulting in defensive break by Teihorangi Walden, who scored their second attempt, transformed by Josh Ioane.
The rating heading into the break was 17-14 in favour of the Crusaders.
Would the Crusaders endure a shock defeat and be knocked out the quarter-finals? The sport was tight, however scoring within the second half was one-sided. All Blacks flanker Liam Squire was despatched to the bin for ten minutes within the 44th minute, and through that point the Crusaders scored with Whetu Douglas, who has had some fantastic video games this season. Douglas scored on the again of a hooker Codie Taylor taking full benefit of a spot within the defence, permitting Whetu to make a robust run over the try-line for the third attempt of the sport. Michael Alaalatoa then scored within the 54th minute of the sport. Each tries have been transformed by Richie Mo’unga.
The ultimate nail within the Highlanders coffin got here within the 68th minute when Richie Mo’unga scored his second attempt of the sport off the again of a kick and chase. Mo’unga transformed his personal attempt to make the rating 38-14 in favour of the Crusaders, and it remained that approach till the tip.
The Highlanders’ up-and-down season got here to an finish by the hands of the mighty Crusaders, who reached the semi-finals for the third season in a row. This leaves the Christchurch aspect two steps away from profitable their tenth title and third in a row.
It was an emotional evening all spherical or the guests, with All Blacks fullback Ben Smith having performed his final sport for his beloved Highlanders.
The celebrities for the Crusaders was Richie Mo’unga, Whetu Douglas, David Havili, Kieran Learn and the ever-dependable flanker Matt Todd.
Mo’unga made 17 passes, 11 runs for 64 metres, two clear breaks and one attempt help, and he beat two defenders, made 4 tackles, scored two tries, didn’t miss a conversion and scored 23 factors for the sport.
Whetu Douglas scored one attempt, beat one defender and made one attempt to help, three passes, seven runs for 11 metres, one clear break and 7 tackles.
David Havili scored one attempt, 9 passes, 9 runs for 49 metres, two clear breaks and 4 tackles and beat 5 defenders.
All Blacks captain Kieran Learn made 9 runs for 39 metres, one offload, eight passes and 5 tackles. The ever-dependable Matt Todd made ten tackles, six passes, seven runs for 29 metres and three offloads.
The boys from Christchurch have reached the semi-finals for the third season in a row and will probably be aiming for a 3rd title in a row and tenth total. They’ll play the Hurricanes after they beat the Bulls on Saturday evening.