Crusaders 32-22 Highlanders: Reigning champions seal Super Rugby Aotearoa title

By Sports Desk August 09, 2020

The Crusaders clinched the Super Rugby Aotearoa title after coming from behind to beat the Highlanders 32-22 on Sunday.

An expectant crowd at a sold-out Orangetheory Stadium appeared set for disappointment until George Bridge crossed twice in three second-half minutes to completely alter the complexion of the game.

Braydon Ennor, back from a foot injury, scored the sealer five minutes from the end to ensure the reigning champions can relax going into next weekend's final-round clash with the second-placed Blues.

The Highlanders had frustrated their hosts for much of the first hour after Jona Nareki added an intercept try to Shannon Frizell's shock second-minute opener.

Richie Mo'unga touched down between those tries and reduced the margin to four points at half-time with a second successful penalty attempt.

Bottom of the New Zealand conference, the Highlanders continued to spoil the party after the interval as Josh McKay denied Bryn Hall a certain try before the excellent Josh Ioane created a chance for Michael Collins to dive over.

But the tide turned just as the Crusaders were getting desperate, with 25-year-old back Bridge put through twice in quick succession.

All momentum shifted to the 10-time Super Rugby champions and they wrapped up top spot when Ennor crossed in the closing stages.

Related items

  • Saracens secure 'another week together' as Racing overcome Clermont Saracens secure 'another week together' as Racing overcome Clermont

    Saracens were spurred on by the prospect of "another week together" after holding off a fightback from Leinster to reach the European Champions Cup semi-finals.

    The star-studded squad Sarries have assembled will be hit by departures at the end of the campaign after they were administratively relegated from the Premiership for salary cap breaches.

    However, the holders appear determined to go out on a high in European competition and a dominant first half was enough for them to defeat the Pro14 champions 25-17.

    They led 22-3 at half-time, Alex Goode kicking three penalties and converting his own try while Elliot Daly added another pair of three-pointers.

    Andrew Porter and Jordan Larmour crossed for Leinster in the second half to narrow the gap to five points, but Saracens held on and Goode's late penalty clinched victory.

    Captain Brad Barritt - who will leave the club at the end of the season - said: "It was the prospect of having another week together.

    "We know after this season there will be a slightly different-looking squad and we owed it to ourselves to have a big game. We showed a huge amount of character playing in games that don't mean anything.

    "Today was about fighting for something tangible. We owed it to ourselves to represent the Saracens badge and I couldn't be more proud of my team."

    Saturday's other quarter-final saw Racing 92 claim victory over Top 14 rivals Clermont Auvergne.

    Racing led 24-8 at half-time, with six penalties from Teddy Iribaren and tries from Louis Dupichot and Francois Trinh-Duc key to the 36-27 success they claimed despite a spirited second-half showing from Clermont.

  • Brumbies 28-23 Reds: Lolesio dazzles to end 16-year wait Brumbies 28-23 Reds: Lolesio dazzles to end 16-year wait

    The Brumbies were crowned Super Rugby AU champions as young playmaker Noah Lolesio sparkled in their 28-23 win over the Reds.

    It ended a 16-year wait for a title for the Brumbies, who were good value for Saturday's win against opponents who too often let their discipline go awry.

    Among many fine performances, it was 20-year-old fly-half Lolesio who caught the eye at the GIO Stadium, as he bent the contest to his will on a first outing since suffering a torn hamstring two months ago.

    The man of the match got the first chunk of his 13-point haul as he and James O'Connor exchanged early penalties before Folau Fainga'a was the beneficiary of a furious 17th-minute drive to put the Brumbies in front.

    Andy Muirhead finished smartly for their second score after Lolesio drew four defenders but an even better try followed for the Reds – Jordan Petaia embarking upon a dazzling run through the midfield before a deft backhanded pass allowed number eight Harry Wilson to touch down.

    O'Connor's penalty to close the first half meant the deficit was trimmed to 15-13 at the interval but the Reds' haphazard start to the second period proved decisive.

    Tom Banks darted through the defensive line as the Brumbies switched play from right to left for their third try, with Lolesio adding the extras before confidently thumping home a drop goal.

    Filipo Daugunu was then sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle and, although Angus Blyth scrambled to touch down a loose ball in the 64th minute, the Brumbies were able to hold on.

    It might have been a different story had O'Connor, who also kicked 13 points, not lacked his usual poise when he dropped a straightforward pass in front of the posts four minutes from time.

  • Harlequins book top-eight spot with win over Gloucester Harlequins book top-eight spot with win over Gloucester

    Harlequins booked a top eight Premiership finish and a European Champions Cup spot with a 28-15 win over Gloucester.

    In front of a 1,000-strong crowd at Kinghsolm - just the second game Premiership fans have been allowed to watch since the resumption of action last month - the hosts started sluggishly. 

    Marcus Smith plundered three penalties in the opening 10 minutes before Cadan Murley raced away from Stephen Varney for Quins' first try.

    Gloucester were punished for a number of squandered chances when Stephan Lewies intercepted a pass on the halfway line and powered forward for the visitors' second try. 

    Gloucester improved after the break, reducing the deficit through Jake Polledri's try but Quins restored their advantage when Scott Steele pounced from close range. 

    Matias Alemanno went over on his Gloucester debut but it was too little, too late for Gloucester, who need two more points from their remaining two games to guarantee eighth place.

     

     

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.