Mo'unga the master puts Crusaders on cloud nine

Mo'unga the master puts Crusaders on cloud nine

Linchpin: Richie Mo'unga splits the Lions defence during the Super Rugby final at AMI Stadium.

In the traditional rounds of gamesmanship that precede a major final, coaches are happy to embrace the underdog tag, believing it relieves pressure and provides extra motivation. The Lions continued to hammer at the Crusaders to the point that by the time Brink had smashed his way through two tackles and ran 25 metres to reduce the deficit to 23-13 the tide appeared to have turned. While acknowledging the strength of the Crusaders, who topped the regular season table with a 14-2 record and swept through the quarterfinals and semifinals with wins over the Sharks (40-10) and Hurricanes (30-12), he said the Lions were in Christchurch to "do a job". "I'm just really proud - when we had nine All Blacks out and we beat the Chiefs away". He won his two Player of the Year awards since succeeding Carter after the 2015 Rugby World Cup. His mantra was a simple one this week as he prepared his side to defend their title against a Lions team with nothing to lose: work harder for longer than the opposition, and so the Crusaders did, helped by the fact that they were also in possession of more skill, and, probably, a better understanding of the game.

And the charismatic coach said his mind was "already wandering" to next year after a compelling display in the decider.

But in the end it was the Lions' own mistakes, the suffocation of the rush defence and the inability to counter what is an exceptional limitation of mistakes by the home side that eventually cost the Lions any chance of a major upset win.

The Lions went down the Crusaders 37-18 in Christchurch on Saturday in what was their third tournament final in as many years without lifting the trophy once.

It was then the Crusaders fully revealed the qualities of a champion team. He will meet Australian referee Angus Gardner before the match to appeal for fairness. They defended extremely well and capitalised on every opportunity they got. "I will make sure we meet with the refs about that". He is doing great things with this team.

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Coach Scott Robertson, who performed a breakdance routine in front of his players to celebrate, has now led the Crusaders to the title in each of his two years in charge.

"Defence goes to show how much we love each other, how much we care", Mo'unga said.

A problem for the Lions is the Crusaders have no obvious weaknesses.

Richie Mo'unga, their star No10, gave his white boots away to a boy, who could be heard later telling his father of his remarkable gift, one that he is unlikely to ever forget.

Robertson expected a "brutal" final. While the Lions have taken a "less is more" approach this week, the Crusaders have devoted plenty of time to working on how to quell their opponents' pack, particularly when they get their rolling maul moving with Malcolm Marx holding the ball.

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