Crusaders know-how holds Jaguares at bay

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They also extended their home playoffs record of 24 wins out of 24.

It wasn't a classic Crusaders display, it was a final after all, but what shone was their ability to withstand pressure and when it mattered, they turned it back on the Jaguares. It was also the perfect farewell for long-serving Crusaders like: Kieran Read, Owen Franks, Ryan Crotty and Jordan Taufua.


Facing determined rush defence from the Jaguares, who in the tradition of challengers played the more attacking rugby as they probed for chances, the Crusaders battled for fluidity in their game. They faced an early battle in the scrums before gaining control later in the first half while the backs struggled with their handling both with the slippery ball and the line pressure from the Argentinians.

The visitors tried everything and had an outstanding example set by flanker Pablo Matera, a veritable workhorse and chosen man of the match, while lock Tomas Lavanini was a presence in the tight as was hooker Agustin Creevy. And while Matias Moroni always looked dangerous, the lack of finish proved costly while first five-eighths Joaquin Diaz Bonilla was not pinpoint in the accuracy of his tactical kicking.

The first half required 67 tackles of the Crusaders, 20 more than the Jaguares were required to make and by the end of the game they put in 132 to 94 while the visitors employed 32 kicks to 25 but for the 55 percent possession advantage they enjoyed the Jaguares couldn't make it count on the scoreboard.

Both sides employed kicks as they probed for advantage and while there was an early penalty goal for Diaz Bonilla in the 14th minute when halfback Bryn Hall was offside, it was the Crusaders who scored the first try.
It came after a kicking exchange when from a ruck formed after Bridge took a Cubelli kick, the ball was kicked by Hall for Bonilla to catch. But fast following put him under pressure and it was flanker Matt Todd who ripped the ball free. It was moved to the short side with No.8 Kieran Read finding lock Sam Whitelock on the sideline. 
He charged down the line and when challenged, he passed inside to hooker Codie Taylor. He was caught, but not held, and got over for a 24th minute try.

The Jaguares had two opportunities in the remainder of the half, the first saw a maul turnover deny them but the second, clearer chance was when Moroni was given a chance on the right flank off a lovely offload from Matera. But he was taken by Havili in a crucial tackle inches from the line and lost the ball forward.

The Crusaders were only able to escape their own half when from a scrum in their own 22m Hall ran the ball into a gap and it was cleared through the backs downfield, worked infield where Creevy played the ball on the ground and Mo'unga kicked the penalty goal to give the defending champions a 10-3 lead.

The Jaguares went close to scoring again at the start of the second half but second five-eighths Jack Goodhue was back to secure the ball after Moroni had passed inside only for centre Matias Orlando to be unable to control the ball.

Crusaders scrum power started to take effect, leaking penalties out of the Jaguares and that allowed the home team to apply their own pressure. Having distintegrated the Jaguares scrum in front of their own posts, the Crusaders caught them napping by reversing their intent to kick to the corner and attempting a tap penalty.

Todd was carried over the line but referee Jaco Peyper couldn't see a grounding due to a Jaguares defender got a leg beneath the ball.

But more scrum power soon resulted in another penalty from which Mo'unga made no mistake. He added his third penalty goal five minutes later, in the 58th when the Jaguares were caught offside.

Desperate to get back within striking distance the Jaguares replacement first five-eighths Domingo Miotti put a kick in-goal but it was too deep and Moroni wasn't able to get there before it went over the deadball line. It proved their last chance as the Crusaders wrapped up the opportunities.

Results: Crusaders 19 (Codie Taylor tries; Richie Mo'unga con, 4 pen) Jaguares 3 (Joaquin diaz Bonilla pen). HT: 10-3