Defence won Crusaders Super Rugby title
Lloyd Burnard - Johannesburg
Johannesburg - The Crusaders, the most successful team in Super Rugby history, relied on their defence to win this year's competition.
That is the view of head coach Scott Robertson, who looked on as his side beat the Lions 25-17 at Ellis Park in Saturday's final to register their eighth Super Rugby title.
The Crusaders had started strongly and, after a red card to Lions flank Kwagga Smith, extended their lead to 25-3.
At that stage, there seemed to be no way back for the Lions, but two tries in the last quarter made for an interesting finish.
It was during those final 20 minutes, Robertson says, that the Crusaders had to earn the win through their defence.
The Crusaders had only conceded one try in their two playoff matches heading into the final, but Robertson knew that his side would have to build up a substantial lead against a Lions side he always expected to click.
"It’s incredible. We gave the ball back to a 14-man Lions
team and had to defend for a long period of time," Robertson said, referring to the final 20 minutes when the Lions had them on the ropes.
"In the last 20, everyone was
out on their feet and it just shows how hard it is to get a win here at
"Our defence won us this championship, there is no doubt about it.
scored enough points and we had to get up early, because we knew we couldn’t
chase the Lions with 20 to go. No team has done that. They score their points
in the last 20 minutes."
The Crusaders also nullified the Lions rolling maul, which had been instrumental in the side's miraculous comeback against the Hurricanes in the semi-finals.
"It was a key point. They beat teams off the back of those
maul tries, so to keep them clean was huge," Robertson said.
Captain Sam Whitelock said that there were moments during those final minutes were he felt a Lions comeback was on the cards.
"There were a couple of times where, even though they were down a number, they kept attacking," he said.
"We didn’t want to give them the ball but they made us give away a few terrible kicks and penalties that gave them momentum.
"I don’t know how many times we defended 5 or 10 metres from our line and it really drained the guys."
The two-time World Cup winner now has his first Super Rugby title to add to the trophy cabinet.
"A number of us have been here for eight or nine years and
never tasted victory," he said.
"To be out there was awesome, looking a mate in the eye
and no words needed to be spoken. Emotion just came out of everyone and to have
that feeling was amazing."