The Blues host the Crusaders for the inaugural Super Rugby Pacific Grand Final at Eden Park in Auckland.
This will be the third final between the Blues and Crusaders in Super Rugby competitions; the Crusaders won their inaugural such fixture (20-13 in 1998), while the Blues were crowned champions in their most recent final (21-17 in 2003).
- The Blues won their most recent Super Rugby match against the Crusaders (27-23, 15 April 2022), snapping a 14-game losing run against the Christchurch men; they will be aiming for consecutive wins against the Saders for the first time since February 2004.
- Leon MacDonald’s men are unbeaten in their last 15 matches since losing 33-32 to the Hurricanes in Round 2.
- This will be the Crusaders’ 17th final in Super Rugby competitions (W12, L4) – the most by any team and double the amount of the next best side (Brumbies – 8); they have won their last four such fixtures in succession and conceded just 13 points per game in that span.
- This will be the Blues’ sixth final in Super Rugby competitions (W4, L1).
- The Crusaders have scored 11 tries starting possession from a kick return, the most by any team and three more than the Blues (8).
Players to watch in the Super Rugby Pacific Final
- Leicester Faninga’anuku and Will Jordan top the Super Rugby Pacific try-scorers charts with 10 tries apiece. Sevu Reece is second with nine scores.
- Jordan has gained 1,307 metres, more than any other player and 615m more than the Blues’ best Mark Telea (692).
- Tom Christie has made 233 tackles in 2022, 50 more than any other player in the campaign and 87 more than the Blues’ best Dalton Papalii (146).
- Rieko Ioane has made five offloads resulting in a break, the joint-most of any player in the competition (also Jordie Barrett – 5 for Hurricanes).
- Caleb Clarke (seven tries) has made 1.4 line breaks per 80 minutes, the second-most of any player to log at least 70 minutes in the campaign (Salesi Rayasi – 1.5 for Hurricanes).
We are waiting for the kick-off.
1.00: PEEEP! We are underway at a wet Eden Park, Auckland, for the ‘Peoples’ Final’ of Super Rugby.
3.00: A prolonged build-up by the visitors ends with Sevu Reece being tackled into touch after a 10-phase attack. The Blues lost their own lineout inside the 22, and the Saders almost score in the corner through Leicester Faninga’anuku.
6.00: A strong scrum from the Blues allowed the hosts to clear the danger before winning a ruck penalty. Beauden Barrett set up an attacking lineout; however, the Saders win the turnover to kickstart a counter-attack.
8.00: Richie Mo’unga’s midfield break carves open the blue wall, but Codie Taylor spilt the pass. Scrum Blues, near halfway.
11.00: The Saders are camped inside the opposition’s half battering away at the blue wall.
13.00: DROP GOAL! Mo’unga opens the scoring with a pitch-perfect drop-kick from in front after his forwards won a penalty advanatge at the lineout. 0-3
15.00: Another botched Blues lineout ends with David Havili nailing a 50/22.
16.00: NO TRY! Fainga’anuku crashes over from close range, but Akira Ioane and Finlay Christie get back to save the day. 0-3
18.00: Nepo Laulala’s tackle on George Bower is not foul play despite Lualala’s high shot on Bower. A good call by the officials, there were too many mitigating factors for a yellow card.
19.00: More good refereeing after Havili tackled a Blues player into Jack Goodhue.
21.00: Sam Whitelock snaps up Kurt Eklund’s errant throw to allow the Saders to clear the danger. The Blues have lost four of their seven lineouts. Mad.
25.00: The Blues go quickly now with their lineouts because they are a mess. It is only a matter of time before the 10-time champions score.
28.00: A knock-on by the Crusaders, after Mo’unga claimed Havili’s chip-kick, ends with a Saders’ penalty for offside.
30.00: PENALTY! Mo’unga doubles his team’s advantage. 0-6
33.00: This is a real arm-wrestle between the two best teams in the tournament. The slippery conditions are causing problems with the handling, but both teams have navigated the conditions expertly.
35.00: An overthrown Eklund throw is snapped up by Bower, but Hoskins Sotutu got over the isolated prop to win the penalty. Yet another poor lineout allowed the Crusaders to win a turnover to counter-attack. Nothing comes from the attack, though.
40.00: TRY! Bryn Hall sneaks over the line after a patient 10-phase attack. Mo’unga played an inside pass to Fainga’anuku on the angle. Fainga’anuku was again stopped short. Pablo Matera darted from the ruck but went nowhere before Hall snuck over. 0-11
41.00: CONVERSION! The kick is good. 0-13
The halftime score was Blues 0 (zero) Crusaders 13
41.00: PEEEP! We are back underway in Auckland.
43.00: Another botched lineout leads to an offside penalty going against the Blues.
44.00: Cullen Grace this time with the steal. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who strayed offside, is off for Bryce Heem.
46.00: PENALTY! Mo’unga extends. 0-16
48.00: Mo’unga kicks to the corner.
51.00: Barrett is held up after a decent driving maul from the visitors.
54.00: The Blues need to find some magic, because this game is getting away from them.
56.00: Sotutu sets up an attack, but the ball is turned over.
58.00: Dalton Papalii kickstarts another Blues attack. Where did the captain get that speed from? It’s all Blues at the moment, they are enjoying their best series of the game.
59.00: Finlay Christie loses possession at the ruck, the ball is turned over, and the Saders have a scrum in front of their posts.
59.00: TRY! Christie slides over after winning the ball at the back of the Crusaders’ scrum. Christie tackled Grace, who lost the ball. The scrumhalf picked up the ball and charged toward the whitewash and get the Blues on the board. 5-16
60.00: CONVERSION! Stepehen Perofeta converts. 7-16
63.00: It’s end-to-end, but time is running out for the hosts.
67.00: MISS! Mo’unga’s penalty is short. 7-16
69.00: Christie kicks clear after another botched scrum by the Crusaders. Grace lost the ball again at the back of the scrum. Christie booted forward, but Mo’unga got back to save the day.
72.00: A knock-on by Mitch Drummond gives the Blues a scrum inside the opposition’s half.
74.00: Tom Christie gets over the ball and wins a relieving penalty inside his 22. That should be the game.
76.00: TRY! Reece latches on to Matera’s grubber to clinch the title. The bouncing ball deceived the Blues’ cover defenders and the Fijian flyer gathered to score. 7-21
77.00: MISS! The kick is wide. 7-21
79.00: Another powerful scrum by the visitors, but Sotutu keeps possession to kickstart an attack. The Blues, however, look ragged despoite trying for a consolation score.
81.00: The ball is turned over, and Reece boots to touch. The Crusaders have done it, they came , they saw, they conquered. Another title goes back to Christchurch. Wow! This team is next level! Scott Robertson’s dynasty continues.
The final score is Blues 7 (0) Crusaders 21 (13)
Tries – Christie
Con – Perofeta
Tries – Hall, Reece
Pen – Mo’unga (2)
Con – Mo’unga
Drop – Mo’unga
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant Ref 1: Nic Berry
Assistant Ref 2: Stu Curran
TMO: Shane McDermott
Blues: 15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 AJ Lam, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 11 Mark Telea, 10 Beauden Barrett (captain), 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Adrian Choat, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Tom Robinson, 4 Josh Goodhue, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Replacements: 16 Soane Vikena, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Dalton Papalii, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Bryce Heem, 23 Zarn Sullivan.
Crusaders: 15 Will Jordan, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 David Havili, 11 Leicester Fainga’anuku, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Scott Barrett (captain), 3 Oli Jager, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 George Bower.
Replacements: 16 Brodie McAlister, 17 Tamaiti Williams, 18 Fletcher Newell, 19 Quenten Strange, 20 Corey Kellow, 21 Mitch Drummond, 22 Braydon Ennor, 23 George Bridge.