No more Barrett-Mo'unga debate? Crusaders' supreme 10 puts a nail in the coffin with performance from a 'different planet'
The 26-year-old pivot was near untouchable as he tore apart the Chiefs defence with sharp footwork and brilliant running, which saw him make three line breaks on the way to over 100 running metres. The threat of Mo’unga’s running game was ever-present as he beat 11 defenders on the night.
After falling behind early 10-0, the Crusaders edged back into the game throughout the first half to finally take the lead 11-10 in the 32nd minute from a Richie Mo’unga penalty. After a tense first stanza, the home side held their slim one-point lead heading into halftime.
Just two minutes into the second half, Mo’unga ignited his side with a show and go dummy to ghost through the Chiefs line around halfway. Two phases later the Crusaders were awarded a penalty try and the Chiefs were reduced to 14-men for 10 minutes.
The home side began to lift the intensity and tempo of the game to wear the Chiefs down, and it was Mo’unga linking with fullback Will Jordan for a set play around the ruck to blow the lead out to 25-10.
From there, the red and black machine continued to pile on the misery even as Fergus Burke came on to replace Mo’unga, whose job was done for the night. The replacement flyhalf showed some nice touches, including quick hands under pressure to set-up the Crusaders fifth try of the night.
Mo’unga was hailed as a ‘rugby genius’ as the superlatives rolled in from around the world. Another proclaimed him as the ‘next great All Blacks 10′ and that he is ‘miles ahead of the likes of Jonny Wilkinson’.
Since Mo’unga’s arrival on the Super Rugby scene, the debate has raged in New Zealand over whether former Hurricanes first five Beauden Barrett or the Crusaders’ upstart should be wearing the All Blacks’ 10 jersey.
Although the Crusaders dominated the Hurricanes over that time period, Mo’unga wasn’t given the All Blacks’ first five job until the 2019 season. Ian Foster continued selecting Mo’unga at 10 in 2020 after his electric Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign, but now it seems with rival Barrett off playing in the Japan Top League the debate can finally be settled once and for all.
This Japanese fan wrote it will be ‘difficult’ for Barrett to get the All Blacks 10 shirt back:
“The sense of smell and sharpness of the break that pierces the gap of Mo’unga is amazing.
“I think it’s pretty difficult for B. Barrett to get All Black No. 10 as long as that is the case,” they wrote.
Beauden Barrett has expressed a desire to win back the first five position on his return from Japan, but he won’t spend any time in Super Rugby this season with the Blues allowing Mo’unga to push ahead on form in a tougher competition.
Next season, Barrett will be 31 years old while Mo’unga will still be in his peak years. The timing of Barrett’s sabbatical is seemingly not so good for his All Blacks’ plans, unless the selectors are prepared to weigh the standard of the Japan Top League equally to that of Super Rugby Aotearoa.
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