Cometh the hour, cometh the man. The Blues took an early lead in Saturday night’s top-of-the-table clash against the Crusaders but it was Crusaders pivot Richie Mo’unga who ensured the home side stole momentum back in the second half and emerged victorious.
Two penalty kicks from Mo’unga in the second quarter of the game ensured that the Crusaders were on near-equal pegging with the visitors going into the break after Mark Telea scored an early try for the Blues. The Blues’ second try came via Rieko Ioane in the second half and the Crusaders were in very real danger of losing their 35-match winning streak at home but, as if a fire were suddenly lit in Mo’unga’s belly, the first five’s game came alive.
First, the flyhalf kicked a relatively straightforward penalty after the Blues infringed inside their own 22. Then, Mo’unga really took his game to the next level.
From the restart, Mo’unga audaciously nudged a short, skidding drop-kick forward 10 metres and scooped it up to set up a Crusaders attack. It was as creative as it was potentially self-destructive but the move came off perfectly, and social media lit up with praise for the All Blacks first five.
Richie Mo’unga just changed the game #CRUvBLU
— Andrew Gourdie (@AndrewGourdie) July 11, 2020
And Richie Mo’unga’s restart.
Confidence, confidence, confidence.
— The Loose Head (@TheLooseH) July 11, 2020
— Gareth Morgan (@Morgy1312) July 11, 2020
— Ross Barnett (@rbarnett08) July 11, 2020
While the ridiculous play handed the Crusaders possession deep inside Blues territory, the defending Super Rugby champions weren’t able to convert the pressure into points. Regardless, it sent a strong message to the visiting side that if they turned off for even a second, the Crusaders would pounce – and pounce they did.
Minutes later, Mo’unga sparked the attack that handed the lead back to the Crusaders through some perfect pivot skills.
Entering the final quarter of the game, with the Blues ahead 15-9, the Crusaders had possession on the Blues’ 22-metre line. The Blues defence was holding strong as the Crusaders threw forward after forward at the waiting Blues blockers – then stepped up Mo’unga.
The Crusaders playmaker pumped the ball twice, drawing up the Blues defenders, then delivered a perfectly placed pass out to George Bridge, in space out on the wing. Bridge scooted around the defence then sent the pass back into reserve halfback Mitch Drummond who dived over for a try.
? The @crusadersrugby take the lead!
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) July 11, 2020
If the courageous kick-off was the cake then his excellent pass was the icing and cherry on top and it spurred the Crusaders on for their eventual 26-15 win.
Unsurprisingly, Twitter was alight with praise for Richie Mo’unga’s excellent late-game performance.
Richie Mo’unga thinks to himself:
“60 minutes gone, probably time for me to totally take control of this game, maybe?
Aye, why not?” #CRUvBLU
— Josh Gardner (@joshgardner) July 11, 2020
— Abdullah Mahmood (@AbbyDno7) July 11, 2020
Richie Mo’unga a genius that dares to do the impossible. #CRUvBLU
— KINGPROKID (@MazwiZuma) July 11, 2020
Crusaders are such a big game team! That try was all Richie Mo'unga. He's been the best player on the field this 2nd half after a dodgy 1st 40.
— Thala Msutu (@ThalaMsutu77) July 11, 2020
Well done Crusaders. Fabulous display to take Blues’ best shots and finish over the top. Absolute masterclass from Richie Mo’unga, who put to bed any debate about black No10 jersey. #SuperRugbyAotearoa
— Marc Hinton (@marchintonffx) July 11, 2020
I’m so sick of saying it* but Richie Mo’Unga is so much better at rugby union than Beauden Barrett and it makes me so happy every time he proves that point.
*I’m not sick of saying it, I fucking love pointing it out.
— Louis Herman-Watt (@LouisHWatt) July 11, 2020
How great was Richie Mo'unga tonight. Hehe had that hook kick panned out. OUTRAGEOUS
— Patman (@PatOyugi) July 11, 2020
Richie Mo’unga, the best No10 in NZ by far, as if there was any doubt. #CRUvBLU
— Patrick McKendry (@patmck6) July 11, 2020
Richie Mo'unga what a final 30 minutes. Turned that game on its head. Third or forth best 10 in world rugby.
— Kwizera (@TherealKwizera) July 11, 2020
The Crusaders’ win puts them on top of the Super Rugby Aotearoa table ahead of their bye next weekend.
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