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We are about 25 minutes away from kick off. Stay with us for all the live action.
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The last time the Crusaders were at home they lost their first home Super Rugby match in 36 as they went down 34-32 to the Hurricanes.
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A Highlanders victory tonight is indeed a very long shot but both the Hurricanes and Blues will hope a miracle happens.
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The Highlanders only have two victories all season and both those wins came against the Chiefs, who went through their eight matches without a single victory after losing to the Hurricanes yesterday.
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A victory for the Crusaders today will secure them the Super Rugby Aotearoa title ahead of the last round of fixtures next week. Currently the Crusaders are two points ahead of the Blues who have a bye this weekend and the two meet next week in Auckland.
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Highlanders – 15 Mitch Hunt, 14 Josh McKay, 13 Michael Collins, 12 Sio Tomkinson, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Aaron Smith (cc), 8 Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Jack Whetton, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Jeff Thwaites, 2 Ash Dixon (cc), 1 Ayden Johnstone. Subs: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 20 Teariki Ben-Nicholas, 21 Folau Fakatava, 22 Ngatugnane Punivai, 23 Jesse Parete.
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Crusaders – 15 Will Jordan, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Whetu Douglas, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Tom Sanders, 5 Quinten Strange, 4 Samuel Whitelock, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor (c), 1 Joe Moody. Subs: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 George Bower, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Sione Havili, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Brett Cameron, 23 Leicester Fainga’anuku.
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Hello and welcome to the Orangetheory Stadium for the Super Rugby Aotearoa clash between the Crusaders and the Highlanders.
1'
KICK OFF! 0-0. Paul Williams whistle sounds under blue skies and no wind. Hunt gets us underway and the Crusaders secure early possession on their own 22.
2'
TRY! HIGHLANDERS! FRIZELL! 0-5. What a start by the Highlanders. They win a turnover against the right-hand touchline on the Saders 22. Smith finds Frizell with a bullet pass at speed and it is try time! Superb start.
3'
CONVERSION! IOANE! 0-7. Ioane adds the extras with a simple kick. Conditions really are perfect.
5'
Highlanders win a penalty just inside their own half and Hunt finds touch about 10 meters outside the Crusaders 22.
7'
Whetton goes within centimetres of scoring the Highlanders second but a brilliant turnover by Christie wins the penalty for the hosts. Aaron Smith has started the match brilliantly by finding his runners at speed and in space.
9'
Crusaders get their first bit of possession on halfway and Mo'unga puts in a good kick that goes out 7 meters from the Highlanders line. However, the Crusaders give away a penalty at the line-out and the Landers' can clear.
13'
First scrum of the match and the Highlanders are under pressure but Smith gets it out and clears it downfield. More good player.
14'
TRY! CRUSADERS! MO'UNGA! 5-7. What a try by the hosts. Reece finds space down right-hand touch and speeds clear of the defence. He then finds an inside pass to Jordan who goes inside once more to Mo'unga who scores beneath the posts.
15'
CONVERSION! MO'UNGA! 7-7. Mo'unga converts his own try to level the scores.
18'
Oh no! Highlanders win a penalty on halfway and Smith goes quickly. He then kicks ahead with on Crusaders player back but the kick sails directly into touch. The chase was on if that stayed in-field.
19'
Highlanders win a penalty after Whitelock plays the ball on the ground. Ioane will kick for goal 15 meters in from touch, about 40 meters out on the angle.
20'
Ioane strikes the upright from the penalty attempt. They really need these things to go in their favour if they are to win here today.
22'
PENALTY! HIGHLANDERS! IOANE! 7-10. Highlanders win another penalty but this one is much easier and Ioane slots it as the Highlanders take the lead once again.
24'
TRY! HIGHLANDERS! NAREKI! 7-15. We are having a belter of a game. Crusaders on attack inside the Highlanders half but Nareki intercepts and charges towards the Crusaders line. Superb chase by Reece but Nareki just makes it over in the corner.
25'
CONVERSION! IOANE! 7-17. Ioane strikes the upright again but this time it is over.
29'
PENALTY! CRUSADERS! MO'UNGA! 10-17. Mo'unga knocks it over from right in front after Dixon competed illegally for the ball on the ground.
32'
The Highlanders are playing some good stuff here today but one feels they need a bigger lead that 7 points. The Crusaders are magnificent in the final 20 minutes of matches and the Highlanders will struggle to keep this intensity up.
35'
Hunt clears well down the touchline and gets the bounce but the hosts go with a quick throw inside their own 22. Another penalty to the Crusaders puts the Highlanders back on the defensive.
36'
Dixon wins a massive turnover penalty 10 meters inside his own 22. Crusaders just can't get their free-flowing game going.
39'
Crusaders should really score but Ennor is caught from behind by McKay. They however hold possession and then take the ball to the right and through 6 more phases. Eventually they come back for the offside penalty right beneath the posts. Saders' will take the three.
40'
The Highlanders have certainly pitched up to win here today and the fact that the Crusaders are taking the three points on offer shows the respect the visitors have earned. One feels that the pace of the game will need to be kept high by the Highlanders - if it becomes a set piece and tight phase battle the more drilled hosts will eventually pip them.
40'
HALF TIME! 13-17. What a game we are having here today. The Crusaders are down at the break but they will come out fighting. The question is how much energy has it taken the Highlanders to get through that first stanza. It has been a brilliant display from the Highlanders thus far but perhaps they should be more than four clear.
40'
PENALTY! CRUSADERS! MO'UNGA! 13-17. Mo'unga slots the penalty to make it a 4-point game at the break.
41'
KICK OFF! 13-17. We are underway in the second half as the hosts kick deep.
44'
Highlanders break through via Hunt but is tackled on the Crusaders 5m line. They recycle quickly but the Crusaders defence holds firm and win a penalty. Great start to the second stanza.
46'
Is this going to be the Highlanders day? Mo'unga breaks the line superbly and passes inside to Hall who can race through untouched...BUT, McKay comes from behind to make a tackle and Hall loses the ball on the line. What a tackle, but that is terrible by Hall.
50'
The Highlanders are defending brilliantly here. A massive hit on Goodhue results in a penalty on their own 22 for the Highlanders. They can relieve some of the pressure but will want to hold onto possession a bit too.
51'
Crusaders win the line-out on Highlanders ball on halfway. They are starting to turn the skrew on the visitors but the Highlanders are still well in this.
52'
Another crucial penalty won by the Highlanders inside their own 22. They are however starting to take deep breaths and the Crusaders best period is the 60-80 minute mark.
54'
TRY! HIGHLANDERS! COLLINS! 13-22. The Highlanders are over with their first attack of the half. Ioane breaks the line brilliantly to take the Highlanders into the Crusaders 22. A few phases later and under advantage, Collins dives over to secure the five pointer.
55'
Ioane misses the conversion from out wide but it is a two score lead. This has been impressive by the visitors.
58'
The Crusaders just aren't themselves today. They are struggling to hold onto possession and another turnover allows the Highlanders to attack again. However this time the visitors give away a penalty on the 22.
60'
The Crusaders win a penalty and Mo'unga brilliantly finds touch on the Highlanders 5m line. But the Crusaders lose their own line-out! This is so unlike them, their normal efficiency has gone missing.
62'
TRY! CRUSADERS! BRIDGE! 18-22. Despite not being at their best the Crusaders just keep coming. Superb play between Jordan and Goodhue sends Bridge over in the left-hand corner.
63'
CONVERSION! MO'UNGA! 20-22. Mo'unga converts from touch to make it a two point game.
64'
TRY! CRUSADERS! BRIDGE! 25-22. And here we go, the Crusaders in the final 20 minutes are devastating and they have now scored again. Romano does brilliant work to break from kick off, a few offloads later, and Bridge scores his 2nd in as many minutes.
65'
YELLOW CARD! Tomkinson is sent to the bin for a shoulder charge in the build up the try. This will now be tough for the visitors.
66'
Mo'unga misses this kick comfortably from touch but the Crusaders have turned a 9 point deficit into a 3 point lead within the space of three minutes.
67'
So close! The Highlanders almost hit back immediately as Ioane breaks again. Smith then puts in a grubber but the ball just wins the race to the dead ball line.
70'
The Highlanders run from their own 22 and Smith once again makes the break. He has been brilliant tonight. Unfortunately there is a knock-on just as the Highlanders reach the Crusaders 22. The visitors are not going to go down without a fight.
72'
The Crusaders take advantage of the Highlanders being a man down at the back as they run from the scrum. Reece makes meters to the Highlanders 10 meter line and then the visitors give away a penalty.
75'
TRY! CRUSADERS! ENNOR! 30-22. Crusaders' maul goes nowhere but they have sucked in enough defenders so they go wide. Mo'unga then puts Ennor perfectly into the gap to score.
76'
CONVERSION! MO'UNGA! 32-22. Mo'unga converts a simple kick to make it a 10-point game.
79'
The match is all but done now. Crusaders win a penalty on their own 22 and clear towards halfway.
80'
FULL TIME! 32-22. The Crusaders won it but the Highlanders were absolute quality today. The famous last 20 minutes got the Crusaders through again, scoring three tries without reply. The hosts were 9 points down at the 60 minute mark but the Highlanders just ran out of steam. Cracking match, Crusaders are 2020 Super Rugby Aotearoa champions with a game to spare!
Crusaders
Highlanders
4
Tries
3
12' Richie Mo''unga
60' George Bridge
63' George Bridge
74' Braydon Ennor
1' Shannon Frizell
23' Jona Nareki
53' Michael Collins
3
Conversions
2
13' Richie Mo''unga
62' Richie Mo''unga
75' Richie Mo''unga
2' Josh Ioane
25' Josh Ioane
2
Penalties
1
28' Richie Mo''unga
40' Richie Mo''unga
21' Josh Ioane
0
Drop Goals
0
0
Yellow Cards
1
64' Sio Tomkinson
0
Red Cards
0
15
Squad
15
Joe Moody
Codie Taylor
Michael Alaalatoa
Sam Whitelock
Quinten Strange
Tom Sanders
Tom Christie
Whetu Douglas
Bryn Hall
Richie Mo'unga
George Bridge
Jack Goodhue
Braydon Ennor
Sevu Reece
Will Jordan
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
Ayden Johnstone
Ash Dixon
Siate Tokolahi
Pari Pari Parkinson
Jack Whetton
Shannon Frizell
Dillon Hunt
Marino Mikaele-Tu'u
Aaron Smith
Josh Ioane
Jona Nareki
Sio Tomkinson
Michael Collins
Josh McKay
Mitch Hunt
8
Reserves
8
Andrew Makalio
George Bower
Oli Jager
Luke Romano
Sione Havili
Mitchell Drummond
Brett Cameron
Leicester Fainga'...
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
Liam Coltman
Dan Lienert-Brown
Jeff Thwaites
Manaaki Selby-Rickit
Teariki Ben-Nicholas
Folau Fakatava
Ngatungane Punivai
Jesse Parete