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Richie Mo'unga steers Crusaders to big win over Highlanders

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

The Crusaders are back in business after star playmaker Richie Mo’unga steered his team to a thumping 52-15 victory over the Highlanders to open Super Round in Melbourne on Friday night.


The 2022 Super Rugby Pacific champions were heavy first-round losers against the Chiefs but found their groove at AAMI Park, where all 12 teams will feature over three days’ play.

All Blacks five-eighth Mo’unga set up the try of the match, scored by fullback Fergus Burke in the 31st minute.

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Mo’unga scooped up a poor kick by the Highlanders English five-eighth Freddie Burns and stepped in and around the defence in a 40m burst before off-loading to halfback Mitchell Drummond, who found Burke on the fly.

A successful conversion by Mo’unga opened the scoreline up to 17-3 after an earlier try by winger Sevu Reece.

“It was awesome to get the win and more importantly play some footy as the Chiefs played all the footy last weekend,” Mo’unga told Stan Sport.

“We wanted to come out and impose ourselves against the Highlanders and I think we did a good job.


“I was pretty disappointed in myself as the driver last week, not putting us in the right areas of the field so today is very satisfying.”

The Crusaders made it 24-3 by the break with prop Joe Moody coming up trumps at the 40 minute mark as the men from Christchurch mauled the ball over the line.


The Highlanders couldn’t have got off to a worse start in the second half when Mo’unga pounced on a perfectly-weighted kick by centre David Havili into the in-goal.

Things started to get really ugly with the Crusaders making easy inroads through their forwards, before their backs collected the spoils with Havili himself next across in the 47th minute.


Big winger Leicester Fainga’anuku then barrelled across the line for the scoreboard to tick past the 50-point mark.

Highlanders fans could cheer two late tries, both scored by Josh Timu off kicks.

Folau Fakatava put through the first before Thomas Umaga-Jensen, among the Highlanders’ best, delivered the second for his centre partner.

However with this result coming after an opening 60-20 loss to the Blues, their season already looks in a shaky state.


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