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Crusaders seal final place in Super Rugby Aotearoa

April 25, 2021 GMT

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — The Christchurch-based Crusaders will host a Super Rugby final for the fourth consecutive year after beating the Auckland-based Blues 22-6 Sunday in their last regular season match in Super Rugby Aotearoa.

The Crusaders hauled themselves out of a late-season form slump — they had won only one of their last three games — to claim a win which put them eight points ahead of the Hamilton-based Chiefs on the five-team table.

The Chiefs posted their fifth-straight win on Friday when they beat the Wellington-based Hurricanes 26-24 are in second place, five points clear of the Blues who they will meet in the final round of the season next weekend.

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“This week there was certainly a lot of intent at training and edge I guess which is a result of a couple of weeks we haven’t been proud of as a team and that showed tonight,” Crusaders captain Scott Barrett said.

Fullback Will Jordan scored the first and last of the Crusaders four tries on Sunday, likely clinching a starting place on the wing in the All Blacks team which will play Italy and Fiji in July.

In the fifth minute Jordan took a short pass from center David Havili as the ball was moving right along the Crusaders backline and cut back to the left, stepping through four ineffectual tackles to score.

Winger Sevu Reece scored in the 27th minute, taking a long pass on the right wing from Havili who was probably the most influential player on the field Sunday.

The Crusaders led 12-0 at halftime and the Blues just managed to hang in the match with early penalties in the second half. But a try from a lineout drive by hooker Codie Taylor — his seventh in eight matches — gave the Crusaders a commanding 22-6 lead after 59 minutes.

Jordan sealed the win in the 72nd minute when he won the race to Havili’s kick behind the Blues’ line.

The match was typical of many in Super Rugby Aotearoa this season — it meandered for long periods with neither side taking control. The Blues were strong at the scrum and had a breakdown edge through captain Dalton Papalii.

But the Blues couldn’t create anything and seldom brought their dangerous outside backs into play, lacking a decisive player at flyhalf.

The Crusaders were sharper in attack, moving the ball wide and taking advantage of angles in the Blues’ dog-leg backline. But they missed their injured All Blacks prop Joe Moody at scrums and were outplayed in the loose.

On Friday, the Chiefs kept up their strong run to the final with another last-minute win. Four of their last five wins have been sealed by fullback Damian McKenzie with kicks after the fulltime siren or in extra time.

They are still a team transformed, likely finalists this year after losing all eight of their matches in Super Rugby Aotearoa last season.

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