Cru­saders beat 14-man Li­ons for eighth ti­tle

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

JO­HAN­NES­BURG: Can­ter­bury Cru­saders sur­vived a rally by 14-man Golden Li­ons to tri­umph 25-17 in Jo­han­nes­burg yes­ter­day and win a record-ex­tend­ing eighth Su­per Rugby ti­tle. The match at El­lis Park sta­dium took a de­ci­sive turn just be­fore half-time when Li­ons flanker Kwagga Smith was red­carded for tack­ling air­borne Cru­saders full­back David Hav­ili.

An al­ready dom­i­nant vis­it­ing team took full ad­van­tage of hav­ing an ex­tra man as they stretched a 12-point half-time lead to 25-3 be­fore the home side ral­lied with two late tries. “You were not in a re­al­is­tic po­si­tion to con­test for the ball,” South African ref­eree Jaco Peyper told Smith be­fore send­ing him off. A de­bat­able yel­low card by Peyper against 2016 Player of the Year Beau­den Bar­rett had helped the Li­ons de­feat an­other Kiwi side, Welling­ton Hur­ri­canes, in the semi-fi­nals.

Vic­tory for a clin­i­cal, dis­ci­plined and de­fen­sively bril­liant Cru­saders out­fit brought a first Su­per Rugby ti­tle since 2008. It was a sec­ond suc­ces­sive fi­nal loss for the Li­ons, who fell by 17 points to the Welling­ton Hur­ri­canes in New Zealand last year. De­feat robbed Li­ons coach Jo­han Ack­er­mann of a fairy­tale farewell as it was his last match in charge be­fore tak­ing over English Premier­ship club Glouces­ter. Cru­saders broke the dead­lock af­ter eight min­utes with a turnover of­fer­ing winger Seta Ta­mani­valu a chance to dart un­op­posed from his half and score. Fly-half Richie Mo’unga con­verted and the Christchurch out­fit were seven points ahead as they sought to avoid los­ing a third fi­nal since their 2008 tri­umph.

Li­ons seemed rat­tled by the set­back and fell fur­ther be­hind on 12 min­utes when good work by cen­tre Ryan Crotty and hooker Codie Tay­lor set up cen­tre Jack Good­hue to score. Mo’unga saw his sec­ond con­ver­sion drift across the posts and wide and Hav­ili was also off tar­get with a lon­grange penalty at­tempt. Li­ons fi­nally got points on the score­board af­ter 27 min­utes as lead­ing 2017 Su­per Rugby scorer and fly­half El­ton Jan­tjies slot­ted a penalty. The South Africans had an­other, eas­ier penalty op­por­tu­nity soon af­ter, but opted to kick for touch in the hope of scor­ing a pushover try. But the gam­ble back­fired thanks to a Cru­saders turnover and then the match took a de­ci­sive turn in favour of the New Zealan­ders when Smith was red-carded. Al­most im­me­di­ately a seven-man Li­ons scrum was pushed back, pe­nalised, and Mo’unga kicked a penalty for a 12-point half-time ad­van­tage. The last thing the de­pleted South Africans needed early in the sec­ond half was to con­cede an­other try, but that is what hap­pened. Cru­saders took the ball within a few me­tres of the try­line, then spun it along the line and No. 8 Kieran Read scored with Mo’unga con­vert­ing. The fly-half then stretched the lead to 25-3 with a penalty and a rout seemed in prospect.

But the Li­ons ral­lied and hooker Mal­colm Marx and re­place­ment prop Corne Fourie barged over for tries and Jan­tjies con­verted both to give the score­line a re­spectable look. — AFP

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