The High Five: Super Rugby Final

Diggercane Roar Guru

By Diggercane, Diggercane is a Roar Guru & Live Blogger

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    The Crusaders have won the 2017 Super Rugby title after defeating the Lions by 25-17 in Johannesburg, scoring three tries to two in the process.

    It was a hard fought and open contest at Emirates Airlines Park in front of over 60,000 fans as the Crusaders, managed to secure the franchise’s eighth overall title and their first since 2008.

    Here’s the High Five from the Super Rugby final.

    Crusaders defence again prominent
    In the key areas of territory and possession, the Crusaders were caught behind the eight ball but for the second week in a row, a superb defensive effort kept the Lions at bay for the majority of the match. Their groundwork was particularly effective, robbing the dangerous Lions side of momentum on numerous occasions while the defence worked overtime throughout the match.

    One also has to tip their hat to Coach Scott Robertson and his coaching staff for the work done around the defensive systems employed. While the Crusaders had to make 131 tackles, they missed a staggeringly high 37 – which against the Lions would usually spell doom. However, the organisation and commitment of the Crusaders was too much for the Lions to overcome on this occasion.

    The maul and lineout defence was also superb for the visitors; repelling the Lions on several occasions in an area they are usually proficient.

    Mitch Hunt Crusaders Super Rugby Union 2017

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Composure under pressure a key difference
    For many who tipped the Crusaders it was thought a key area of difference would be in the experience of the two sides and one could argue this to indeed be the case. Many of the older heads stood up for the Crusaders, in particular Ryan Crotty who made a number of breaks with ball in helped marshal the defence superbly, winning the MOM award.

    The Crusaders’ ruthlessness to seize the opportunity was in full show last night, both tries in the second half stemming from Lions errors and taking full toll whereas the Lions would struggle at times with their handling and executed poorly on occasion. This robbed the Lions of momentum throughout the match and unable to exert any real pressure on the Crusaders until late in the match.

    Lions’ lineout was a coach killer
    I found it staggering to watch the Lions seemingly flick a switch and really lift their pace and intensity in the last 20 minutes to threaten running down the lead the Crusaders had built. Despite being a man down, they certainly looked to have all the momentum as they pegged the score back from 25-3 to 25-17 with ten to play.

    Unfortunately it was not to be though they squandered a number of opportunities and particularly on their own throw in very good positions which must have been frustrating for the coaching staff looking on. Several steals were taken in prime positions which ultimately stalled what was potentially looking like a dramatic finish as the altitude looked to start taking an effect on the Crusaders. However, the experience and composure up front paid dividends in the end for the Christchurch based side.

    Red card was the right call
    The red card that was awarded to the Lions flanker Kwagga Smith will likely invoke plenty of debate over the next few days but there is no question it was a match defining moment in favour of the Crusaders.

    The rules are pretty clear and the attitude towards such challenges has been applied fairly consistently but should it be looked at moving forward? Should it perhaps have been a yellow instead?

    Not in my mind as while there was obviously no malicious intent from Smith, I find it very difficult to have a lot of sympathy given he was in no real position to challenge for the ball nor did he even manage to leave the ground. I felt the match officials had no real choice in the matter and while it is always a shame to see a match of this magnitude affected in such a way, the rules and attitude have been fairly clear around players in the air. Unfortunately for Smith, he has no one else to blame but himself.

    Tale of two coaches
    It was indeed sad to see Johann Ackermann leave his post as coach of the Lions after two final appearances without a title, especially when considering the journey this side has taken over the past few seasons. He has moulded title-worthy challenges from a squad that not so long ago were considered the easy beats of the competition to be now ranked as one of the power houses of Super Rugby. We will now wait and see how the Lions will perform after losing their talisman coach overseas, a loss not just for the Lions and South Africa, but for the competition as a whole.

    On the flip side, the Crusaders coach Scott Robertson debut year in Super Rugby probably could not have been more perfect, dropping just the one match all season and becoming the first side to win a final in South Africa and only the second side to win a final overseas, mirroring the efforts of the 2000 Crusaders campaign.

    Success seems to follow Robertson, his Canterbury sides have dominated at provincial level for some time and after making such a successful step up in his first year, with a squad many were tipping to come forth in the New Zealand conference alone at the start of the year, it would not be difficult to imagine he is a future All Blacks coach in the making as he appears to simply have that ‘Midas’ touch.

    So that brings the curtain down on another season of Super Rugby, the Crusaders once again standing atop of the mountain as we say goodbye to the competition in its current format. We wait to see what shape Super Rugby will take from 2018 and beyond as the competition looks to drop from the current 18 teams back to a 15-side competition. For now, we have the Rugby Championship to look forward too and only a fortnight away!

    A Rotundity and happy ex hooker who just loves Rugby really, oh and my kids and Kendra of course who lets me watch as much Rugby as I want, mostly. Follow Digby Ross on Twitter @Diggercane.

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    The Crowd Says (84)

    • Roar Guru

      August 6th 2017 @ 6:47am
      Kia Kaha said | August 6th 2017 @ 6:47am | ! Report

      Thanks Digger.

      The difficult second album awaits. But this year, Razor Robertson has been a revelation and his players have achieved the previously unattainable.

      Congratulations to the players and support staff and well done to the Lions. I was Faf de Klakking myself with those two Lions tries. They never gave up.

      • August 6th 2017 @ 9:59am
        Diggercane said | August 6th 2017 @ 9:59am | ! Report

        Thanks Kia, and yes, they were certainly coming in that last quarter, obviously a fantastic spirit within the group.

      • August 6th 2017 @ 3:00pm
        cuw said | August 6th 2017 @ 3:00pm | ! Report

        doesnt it make u wonder , what would have , could have , been had he taken over maybe in 2015 or even 2016 – with the likes of nandolo , bird , nepo laulala , luke whitelock , tom taylor still around ?

      • Roar Rookie

        August 7th 2017 @ 12:29pm
        Phantom said | August 7th 2017 @ 12:29pm | ! Report

        I was staggered to read a Justin Marshall article today stating the red card did not influence the outcome of the match.
        I personally thought the decision was very harsh.

    • Roar Guru

      August 6th 2017 @ 7:51am
      Machooka said | August 6th 2017 @ 7:51am | ! Report

      Thanks Diggeriwi… a last high five of the SR season my bro.

      Sadly, I didn’t get to watch the last half an hour of the game as I fell asleep!

      Ah the dangers of watching a game in the wee hours of the morning on ya pat malone. Anyhow, having now read your ‘live blog’, it would appear that the Lions made a fist of it in the last 20 mins. This I expected… Kwagga or no Kwagga. So well done Crusaders and to their supporters as well… mighty effort this season. But ha ya didn’t beat the other Lions though 😉

      I really feel for Kwagga… and I’ve never seen a Ref looking so compassionate when giving a Red Card. But it was the right call. And to be honest the game at that stage had the feel of another ‘Saders’ strangulation scenario about it… but we’ll never know if things were to be different eh.

      Again congrats to the Crusaders… and their black and red mob. And again, thanks to you Diggeriwi you absolute marathon man you 🙂

      • August 6th 2017 @ 8:12am
        stainlesssteve said | August 6th 2017 @ 8:12am | ! Report

        I feel sure the Lions would have won without the red card. And equally sure the Crusaders would have won at sea level.
        Ackermann’s comments about 60,000 people not wanting to see a game between a 14 and a 15 man side could use a bit of balancing too….for most of a hundred years, when we went to SA, we watched a game between a 15 and a 16 man side…..so, cry me a river, Johan, you’re breaking my heart.

        • August 6th 2017 @ 8:59am
          Fionn said | August 6th 2017 @ 8:59am | ! Report

          I get his point about the fans (including those on TV) not wanting to see 15 v 14. Really reckless from Kwagga Smith though, not sure what possessed him to risk that.

        • August 6th 2017 @ 9:28am
          taylorman said | August 6th 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report

          Yes normally I wouldn’t agree with that but felt the same with the SBW red, everything felt apart while trying to restructure around it.

          It’s not so much the missing person but the unexpected new requirements of the side as a whole in such a short timeframe.

        • August 6th 2017 @ 10:31am
          Jacko said | August 6th 2017 @ 10:31am | ! Report

          thats not a good call at all from the lions coach. Would he be saying the same if it was in reverse? No he just had a whinge because he lost…there has been so much anti SBW written on the roar pages from his sendoff v the Lions so why is Smith being given so much lattertude…Should be banned for 4 weeks…7 weeks…5 matches…4 matches…lets see what happens shall we…We have seen virtually every possible decision go against NZ sides this year and all we have heard was they should have taken the ref out of the game…should have played smarter…Shouldnt have this…should have that…well COACH AKERMAN, taking a guys feet out while he is 6 feet in the air is a terrible act and needs to be punished just as much as any shoulder charge does….and I didnt here him mention anything last week when surely the same fans deserved to see 15 v 15 for the whole game as well? Sorry Ackermann but that is having a sook

          • Roar Guru

            August 6th 2017 @ 1:55pm
            biltongbek said | August 6th 2017 @ 1:55pm | ! Report

            You remain a class act my boy, if only you could fill one of the shoes of a man like Ackermann.

            • August 6th 2017 @ 6:35pm
              Jacko said | August 6th 2017 @ 6:35pm | ! Report

              You have no idea what shoes I fill but Ackermann and I have won an equal number of SR titles

          • August 6th 2017 @ 9:05pm
            USrugger said | August 6th 2017 @ 9:05pm | ! Report

            No comparison. SBW led with his shoulder. Kwagga simply ran forward blindly. Both SBW & Kwagga deserve reds, but one hit was much more onerous: SBW’s.

            That said, neither man, IMHO, had malicious intent.

            • August 6th 2017 @ 10:54pm
              taylorman said | August 6th 2017 @ 10:54pm | ! Report

              Our Reunion showed how Dagg demonstrated exactly how to handle this situation from the same match.

              On his way to the ball he summed up that he wasn’t going to be in a position to contest, stopped short, then nailed the ball carrier as soon as he landed. So it is very avoidable, but you need to be very astute in making decisions earlier, and that will be very much an experience, skill factor.

        • August 6th 2017 @ 11:02am
          puff said | August 6th 2017 @ 11:02am | ! Report

          The Ackermann comment post match is the kind of response Cheika would have made. All heart but completely divorced from the rules of the game. In big matches there are significant moments that clinical teams with smart leadership qualities recognize and take advantage of. Both teams had opportunities but only one appreciated score board pressure.

      • Roar Guru

        August 6th 2017 @ 10:28am
        Diggercane said | August 6th 2017 @ 10:28am | ! Report

        Thanks Kia, shocker mate, obviously didn’t have the almonds or water going 😉

        • Roar Guru

          August 6th 2017 @ 12:37pm
          Machooka said | August 6th 2017 @ 12:37pm | ! Report

          Que’ amigo? 🙂

          • August 6th 2017 @ 7:36pm
            Diggercane said | August 6th 2017 @ 7:36pm | ! Report

            Yes, well there you go.

            I have red carded myself.

    • Roar Guru

      August 6th 2017 @ 8:16am
      Machpants said | August 6th 2017 @ 8:16am | ! Report

      A great game, lions are an awesome team. But like the ABs showed it’s very hard to get over the line with a red card for that long. The saders defensive system is really interesting, dropping tackles and metres and possession until they get to their own 22, then it’s like rock. I hope some of that is brought into the ABs, a lot of guts in scrambling. Now those lions and saders have to rest up for the tests coming in just a couple of weeks!

      • Roar Guru

        August 6th 2017 @ 10:31am
        Diggercane said | August 6th 2017 @ 10:31am | ! Report

        It is interesting Mach, given the strength of the Lions finish, certainly the pace of Smith was a big loss.

      • August 6th 2017 @ 3:05pm
        cuw said | August 6th 2017 @ 3:05pm | ! Report

        i think the crusaders starting XV defend much better. once the replacements come on , then the defensive patterns seems to suffer.

        this maybe something they will need to fix next season. if u watch closely , most line breaks are in the 2nd half , mostly in last 20.

        also i wonder if people noticed, Bridge came on and then went off. if im not mistaken it happened in the semi as well.

    • August 6th 2017 @ 8:25am
      bigbaz said | August 6th 2017 @ 8:25am | ! Report

      Missed tackles can mean that defenders are pushing themselves to try to make tackles there unlikely to make. It may be a measure of the desperation and commitment.

      • Roar Guru

        August 6th 2017 @ 10:33am
        Diggercane said | August 6th 2017 @ 10:33am | ! Report

        Good point Baz, cheers

      • August 6th 2017 @ 3:09pm
        cuw said | August 6th 2017 @ 3:09pm | ! Report

        i think missed tackles in rugger are like the missed catches in cricket – if it hits the hand it is a missed catch , no matter how hard it is to catch it.

        quite a few of the missed tackles are where the runners go thru the hands, as crusaders went low most of the time. one of the big misses was when mostert ran thru 2 defenders – very un-crusaders like.

    • August 6th 2017 @ 8:42am
      stainlesssteve said | August 6th 2017 @ 8:42am | ! Report

      correct, bigbaz
      Also, with massive, powerful forwards to cope with, there can be a tendency to say “slow him down with the first tackle, drop him with the second”

    • August 6th 2017 @ 10:01am
      Gilbert said | August 6th 2017 @ 10:01am | ! Report

      Crusaders played with their head……Lions played with their heart.

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