Super Rugby Aotearoa concluded on the weekend in anti-climatic fashion due to the recent community transmission of COVID-19 in Auckland.
Sevu Reece scored two tries as the Crusaders stamped their authority on the Super Rugby competition, defeating the Lions 36-10.
In cool conditions in Christchurch, the visiting Lions made five changes to the starting line-up that beat the Chiefs in Hamilton last week.
Robbie Coetzee, Marnus Schoeman and captain Kwagga Smith came into the forwards, while in the backs, Nic Groom replaced Ross Cronje at halfback and Shaun Reynolds came in at fly-half for Gianni Lombard.
The Crusaders also made five changes to their starting side from Round 9. Codie Taylor, Quinten Strange, Billy Harmon, Mitchell Drummond and George Bridge replaced Andrew Makalio, Scott Barrett, Matt Todd, Bryn Hall and Josh Goodhue respectively.
The Crusaders made their way into the Lions’ half early, courtesy of Lionel Mapoe conceding an offside penalty in the first minute.
Right winger Sevu Reece then played a pivotal role in Braydon Ennor securing the first points of the game.
Looking to execute an attacking line-out, the Crusaders handed the ball to Reece, who delivered an excellent pass over the head of his defender to put outside centre Ennor away for the first try of the match. Richie Mo’unga added the extras.
Another penalty by the Lions allowed Mo’unga to stretch the Crusaders’ lead to ten.
The Johannesburg men hit back nine minutes later, though, when two consecutive penalties conceded by the Crusaders let Elton Jantjies close the deficit.
The Lions showed some ticker as they survived a 27-phase onslaught from the hosts before a knock-on ended the sequence of play.
Both sides then traded penalties until five minutes before half-time.
Reece showed some incredible strength. The Crusaders were on the 22, attacking the Lions down the right wing, when Reece burst through.
He proceeded to barge through Kwagga Smith before sliding over the try line. Mo’unga knocked over the conversion and the home side went into the break up 17-3.
The second half started with the visitors repelling a strong Crusaders maul and turning the ball over inches from their own line. But the Canterbury outfit found a way and a double-strike from George Bridge left the Lions struggling 28 points behind.
Hooker Codie Taylor looped around the back of a line-out and a neat inside ball left a gaping hole for Bridge to stroll in for his first of the night.
His second try came just two minutes later when Ennor sparked a brilliant Saders counter-attack.
They broke down the left wing and Ennor made his way up to the 22 before his pass to Bridge handed the 24-year-old his second try of the match.
Mo’unga added both conversions as the Crusaders threatened to embarrass the Johannesburg side.
The Lions found a way to inspire some hope, though, when fullback Ruan Combrinck snagged an intercept pass from Richie Mo’unga and outpaced his opponents to give his team-mates a glimmer of hope.
But a second Reece try well and truly put the game to bed.
Reece, who had already managed a try in the first half, showed his speed from 30 metres out to beat replacement No.9 Ross Cronje to his own grubber kick and dot down for the Crusaders’ fifth try of the match.
Mo’unga was unable to add the extras from the right touchline but the Crusaders’ had amounted an unassailable 26-point lead, recording a 36-10 victory in a rematch of the 2018 grand final.
Sevu Reece had an outstanding game with two tries, nine tackle busts and 104 run metres, helping his side to a fourth straight win.
The away side were unable to combat the irresistible force that was the Crusaders, and the loss sees them with just one win from their three-game overseas tour.
They have the bye in Round 12 before taking on the Waratahs at Ellis Park.
In Round 12, the Crusaders take on another South African side in the form of the Sharks before facing the Bulls and Stormers away from home then wrapping up the season back home in New Zealand.