The Crusaders crushed the Queensland Reds 28-63 in Super Rugby’s ‘Battle of the Champions’ at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane.
This was the Richie Mo’unga show: a majestic performance that the electric first-five always produces in the big game.
The 26-year-old playmaker put on a masterclass against the Super Rugby AU champions in Queensland’s house.
Mo’unga weaved his black magic – scoring 31 points – as he cemented his place among the sport’s current best players.
Mo’unga conjured images of former Crusaders first-five Dan Carter’s stunning dismantling of the British and Irish Lions in 2005.
He scored a hat-trick and set up both of Sevu Reece’s tries, he was also flawless from the tee, converting eight from eight in a virtuoso display at first-receiver.
Cullen Grace, Tamaiti Williams, and Codie Taylor also crossed for the two-time Super Rugby Aotearoa champs as they racked up a record score against the Reds.
The Crusaders look for certain favourites to qualify for another Super Rugby final after only two rounds of the Trans-Tasman edition.
Tate McDermott, Harry Wilson, Suliasi Vunivalu, and Brandon Paenga-Amosa scored for Brad Thorn’s stunned side.
Scott Robertson’s charges put the game to bed with four first-half converted tries and a 21-point lead
The game was over as quickly as it had begun when the Saders, who went into the shed 28-7 up.
Mo’unga scored twice. Reece and Grace also crossed. McDermott scored before the break to give his side some ill-judged hope.
The visitors opened the scoring in the sixth minute when Mo’unga snapped up Fraser McReight’s knock-on.
The flyhalf then turned provider when he raced from his own half, slipping tackles before putting Reece away.
Another counter-attack from deep inside the Crusaders’ half ended with Grace carrying a defender with him over the try line.
It was 21-0 inside 16 minutes, and it was game over on the half-hour when Mo’unga bagged his brace.
Mo’unga collected an overthrown pass, which brought up Bryce Hegarty out of the line. The first-receiver gathered and sped around the fullback, and cruised in for the score.
McDermott got his team on the scoreboard with a quick-tap penalty from the back of a collapsed scrum.
Crusaders increase the pace and tempo with five more tries after halftime
Reece and Mo’unga both scored again as the Crusaders put their foot on Queensland’s throats after the break.
It only took four minutes after the restart for the 12-time Super Rugby kings to score.
Mo’unga had the ball on a string. The flyhalf, under pressure from the defenders, put in a wonderful crossfield kick for Reece, who gathered on the bounce to score.
The All Blacks star had his third in the 54th minute after ghosting past James O’Connor and bumping off Hegarty and Hamish Stewart.
The Reds‘ humiliation was complete when the visitors were awarded a penalty try on the hour; Harry Hoopert got sent to the sin-bin for cynical play.
Wilson, however, scored and set up Vunivalu’s try three minutes later to give the scoreboard some semblance of respectability at 21-49.
But Williams crashed over for his maiden Super Rugby try to bring up a half-century.
The try snuffed out any remote possibility of a late Queensland fight back.
Taylor scored his side’s ninth try with five minutes remaining to heap more misery in the crushing rout.
Will Jordan went to the naughty step with seconds remaining.
The Reds kept coming, and Paenga-Amosa dotted down as the hooter sounded, which must have sounded sweet in the ears of Thorn’s broken men
Final Score: Reds 28 (7) Crusaders 63 (28)
Tries – McDermott, Wilson, Vunivalu, Paenga-Amosa
Con – O’Connor (4)
Cards – Hoopert (Yellow, 60′)
Tries – Mo’unga (3), Reece (2), Grace, Penalty try, Williams, Taylor
Con – Mo’unga (8)
Cards – Jordan (Yellow, 79′)
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 1: Damon Murphy
Assistant Ref 2: Jordan Way
TMO: Brett Cronan
15 Bryce Hegarty, 14 Suliasi Vunivalu, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Jock Campbell, 10 James O’Connor (co-captain), 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Liam Wright (co-captain), 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Ryan Smith, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Dane Zander
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Feao Fotuaika, 19 Seru Uru, 20 Angus Scott-Young, 21 Kalani Thomas, 22 Isaac Henry, 23 Filipo Daugunu
15 Will Jordan, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 David Havili, 11 Leicester Fainga’anuku, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Ethan Blackadder, 6 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Mitchell Dunshea, 3 Oliver Jager, 2 Codie Taylor (captain), 1 George Bower
Replacements: 16 Brodie McAlister, 17 Tamaiti Williams, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Quinten Strange, 20 Sione Havili Talitui, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Dallas McLeod, 23 Manasa Mataele