1 NEWS NOW's rugby expert Campbell Burnes breaks down the Super Rugby Final between the Crusaders and Lions.
1. The All Blacks will miss Matt Todd
This bloke continues to amaze at the consistently high quality of performance he delivers on a weekly basis. That is not the first time we have said that about a No 7 from these parts.
The 30-year-old Todd made as many tackles as his age in the final and, other than one mistake, gave a towering display to outpoint Kwagga Smith in the loose.
His offload which led to Mitch Drummond’s try shows a man who has added to his game to become a complete opensider. While I am a fan of both Sam Cane and Ardie Savea, it doesn’t seem right he will not feature in black again until next year due to his Japanese sabbatical.
2. Richie Mo'unga loves finals pressure
The Crusaders pivot seemed to take Steve Hansen’s midweek words as a personal challenge to show him how he could run a game under white-hot pressure.
The response was 17 points, a flawless goalkicking exhibition, authoritative generalship, penetrative running and a harsh lesson for his opposite Elton Jantjies.
But then Mo’unga has history in big finals. He ran the cutter in the 2015-17 NPC finals for Canterbury, scoring two tries in 2016 and racking up 25 points in a virtuoso display in the 2017 decider.
Throw in the 2017 Super Rugby final, in which he scored 10 points, and you need have no fears about his temperament. The only mediocre outing I can recall in his Crusaders career is the game against the British and Irish Lions last season. He was, however, not Robinson Crusoe on that disappointing night.
Hansen said Mo’unga was playing behind a Roll Royce pack. That was true, but the All Blacks also have a Rolls Royce pack, so no clear-thinking rugby fan in this country should have any concerns if Mo’unga is called upon to wear the All Blacks’ No 10 jersey during the Rugby Championship.
3. Tactics and planning still count in finals
We are not 100 percent sure who came up with the Crusaders’ tactics to combat the Lions’ vaunted lineout drives and mauls, but it doesn’t matter who gets the credit. The collective call was made and the home team committed to it.
Rather than sitting back passively hoping for a truck and trailer or leaving a decision in the hands of the referee, the Crusaders pack just smashed into the Lions lineout before they could even stabilise their jumpers.
It worked a treat and, competitive as the Lions were throughout, they could not get their backs, or forwards, going from such an unstable platform.
In the words of the immortal Hannibal Smith: "I love it when a plan comes together!"
4. Scott Robertson’s record is decidedly useful
If you think the Crusaders’ home playoffs record is not bad, then how about Scott Robertson’s professional coaching record?
Rare indeed it is for him not to oversee a winning campaign. Before his two straight Super Rugby titles, he took the New Zealand Under 20s to the 2015 Junior World Championship.
After serving as a specialist coach for Canterbury, he rose to be Tabai Matson’s assistant in 2012 for an NPC title, and then uncorked three more as head coach in 2013 and 2015-16.
Hell, even Sir Graham Henry did not win an NPC until he was 47. Robertson, at 43, is on his way to the top.
5. That win had parallels with the class of 2000
They say the 2018 Crusaders made 171 tackles in the final, with the Lions commanding 72 per cent of the ball.
Those numbers sound similar to the 2000 decider, on a bitterly cold Canberra night, when the visitors gave a herculean defensive shift against the home-town Brumbies.
Scott Robertson was there, in the No 7 jersey, so he will know what his men went through against the Lions. The only difference was that it was colder in 2000, and the contest, decided by a last gasp, long range Andrew Mehrtens penalty goal, was rather closer than in 2018.