Richie Mo’unga was in inspirational form as the Crusaders took another step towards a third straight Super Rugby title with a 38-14 quarter-final defeat of the Highlanders.
The Crusaders, who triumphed in 2017 and 2018, topped the regular season table and their progression to the last four never looked in doubt in Christchurch on Friday.
Mo’unga contributed 23 points for the hosts, crossing for a try in either half, dispatching an early penalty and executing five conversions from five.
The Highlanders, with Ben Smith back in the side, had briefly led when Sio Tomkinson responded to Mo’unga’s opening kick with a 17th-minute try, but the defending champions quickly turned the game on its head.
David Havili went over after 22 minutes and Mo’unga soon followed, although Teihorangi Walden’s score – and Josh Ioane’s second conversion – reduced the score to 17-14 at the break.
The Highlanders did not score again and the Crusaders accelerated out of sight after Liam Squire was sent to the sin bin for a no-arms tackle just after the restart.
Whetu Douglas quickly capitalised from a lineout drive and then Michael Alaalatoa further stretched the lead, before Mo’unga fittingly completed the scoring with 11 minutes remaining.
What a game! We’ve won the Quarter Final, 38-14 over the @Highlanders. Next week we host the Semi Final, yes, here at home again If you’re a Crusaders Club member or at the game tonight you can buy your tickets from tonight!! Check your emails #finalsfooty
— BNZ Crusaders (@crusadersrugby) June 21, 2019
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