Crusaders slay Blues to reach Super Rugby final

rugby16 June 2023 10:02| © AFP

Leicester Fainga'anuku scored two superb tries as the Crusaders bulldozed their way into the Super Rugby Pacific final with a 52-15 thrashing of the Blues on Friday.

The Crusaders dominated their home semifinal to stay on course for a seventh straight Super Rugby title by crossing for six tries in Christchurch.

"I'm pretty proud of the efforts of the boys at home," Crusaders captain Scott Barrett told Sky.

They will only play their final at home if the Brumbies beat the Chiefs, who topped the table in the regular season, in the other semifinal on Saturday.

"A couple of guys here, it might have been their last game at home so we just talked about fronting up at home."

The Blues were played off the park as the Crusaders dominated.

"Credit to the Crusaders," said Blues captain Dalton Papali'i, "they've set the standard for years now.

"Every time it comes to finals footy, they go up another level.

"We took a backward step in that first half."

All Blacks outside half Richie Mo'unga was outstanding for the Crusaders, claiming 22 points with the boot by landing nine of his 10 kicks.

The Crusaders playmaker tormented the Blues by creating the space for early tries by Braydon Ennor and Fainga'anuku.

Ennor crossed for the opening try with just three minutes gone after Mo'unga spotted Blues winger Mark Telea out of position.

Mo'unga slotted the conversion and a penalty before his perfectly weighted pass created made for Will Jordan, who drew the defence and put Fainga'anuku over in the corner.

Mo'unga drilled the conversion off the upright, his only miss of the night, then traded penalties with his Blues counterpart Beauden Barrett.

The Crusaders offered no let up as Jordan blasted through a gap in the Blues defence to touch down from Ennor's perfectly timed pass.

The Blues were briefly reduced to 14 men after flanker Hoskins Sotutu was shown a yellow card after coming into a maul from the side.

The Crusaders took advantage as hooker Codie Taylor crashed over after his pack mauled their way to the line.

Mo'unga converted both tries to put the Crusaders 32-3 up at halftime.

Fainga'anuku dished up his second try after the break when he cut inside from the wing and fended off a cover tackle to crash over near the posts.

Mo'unga converted to make it 39-3 with half an hour still to play.

Beauden Barrett restored some pride for the Blues when he crossed for an unconverted try after Rieko Ioane found a hole in the Crusaders defence.

Mo'unga landed a penalty, then set up another try after ghosting through a gap and drew the defence to put replacement Fergus Burke over.

The Crusaders showed no mercy as Mo'unga landed a perfectly struck late penalty to put the hosts past the 50-point mark.

Caleb Clark grabbed the Blues second try just before the final whistle.