Crusaders first five Richie Mo’unga orchestrated a dynamic performance over the Chiefs as the defending champions flexed their might on the way to a 39-17 win in Christchurch.
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’.
Richie Mo’unga is on a different planet to nearly anyone who has ever played the game. Especially those to wear a number 10 shirt!
— Ollie Silverton (@olliegs64) March 13, 2021
— The Bulldozer (@MazwiZuma) March 13, 2021
Are you watching the Crusaders ? Richie Mo’unga’s skills are disgusting ????
— Mike Sharman (@mikesharman) March 13, 2021
Imagine thinking Richie Mo'unga is not the best fly half in the world ??
— StarGazer (@T_i_s_h_) March 13, 2021
The Saders taking full advantage of being a man up ???? Richie Mo'unga absolutely controlling this game! Would give him MOTM right now ??
— X (@IamX05) March 13, 2021
Richie Mo'unga is the next AB great flyhalf.
— silverback (@TavonGo) March 13, 2021
Anyone in France got a blank cheque for Richie Mo’unga? What a performance this morning in Canterbury. It was almost religious…
— Eamonn Hogan ??????????? (@theeamonnhogan) March 13, 2021
btw Richie Mo'unga is a rugby genius
— John Redcorn. (@Mandla_Nkwali) March 13, 2021
Richie Mo'unga is something else https://t.co/cZDVeuo3FI
— LEVI (@lawi_ruto) March 13, 2021
If Richie Mo’unga was English, Eddie Jones wouldn’t pick him. https://t.co/Qey8yVc7j7
— Jimmy SuWOO. (@OhioV1) March 13, 2021
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.
— ??? Sachiko (@sacchir) March 13, 2021
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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