Knowing the title was within their grasp with a victory this afternoon, Crusaders coach Scott Robertson selected a match day 23 bristling with All Black experience and youth looking to push for such selection.

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Befittingly, the Crusaders who have dominated Super Rugby over the decades ,were the inaugural Super Rugby Aotearoa champions taking the match 32-22.

The Highlanders, though, made them work for it and for the majority of the match appeared the better team, but like the champions they are, the Crusaders found another gear and took the game away from Highlanders in the final 20 minutes to secure yet another trophy in the cabinet that holds many.

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Aaron Mauger speaks to media

How RugbyPass rated the Crusaders.

15. Will Jordan – 7.5/10

No tries for the electrifying Jordan today but he had his hand in plenty. Looked threatening in the earlier stages but was well marked up on, yet as soon as there was space early in the second half, he exploited it and worked unselfishly with George Bridge to break Highlanders hearts.

14. Sevu Reece – 7.5/10

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Was threatening throughout. He kept his depth and width when required but also knew when to come in closer to secure possession or support the play. Quality performance.

13. Braydon Ennor – 7/10

Made a few mistakes and appeared lost in the first half, but found his way into the match with some quality involvements and was rewarded with a try for his efforts at the death.

12. Jack Goodhue – 8/10

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Heart and soul of that Crusaders backline. Whilst there were errors, in context to how much work he did both on and off the ball, these errors are absolutely excusable. Is there a harder working 12 in the game?

11. George Bridge – 8/10

Mr Consistency delivers again, and again. Not much gets past him, but he gets past many. Scored two tries as a result of work done for him but he needed to be there and he was. A winger anyone would want in their side.

10. Richie Mo’unga – 8.5/10

Hard to leave out of the All Blacks as a starting 10 with yet another dominant performance. If he wasn’t taking on the line, he was guiding his team around and keeping them in the match with his option taking. Got a good look at Shannon Frizzell’s elbow when he was ‘speed bumped’ late in the second half but there is no disgrace in that.

9. Bryn Hall – 6.5/10

A hero and a villain. His service was crisp and threatening that set up the Crusaders’ first try by passing across the face down the short side to an unmarked Sevu Reece. A pass of beauty. And like all quality half-backs he backed up on the inside to assist. Yet, when doing exactly that later in the match with the try line in sight, poor ball security allowed the late finishing Josh McKay to chop the ball out of his grasp, bombing a certain five-pointer.

8. Whetukamokamo Douglas – 7/10

Big game in defence and in the tight. Probably doesn’t get the plaudits he deserves for the unspectacular work he does. But that work is so vital for his team.

7. Tom Christie – 7/10

One of the Crusaders’ best early in the match when they were under serious pressure. After being down 0-7 and the Highlanders threatening deep on the attack, Christie secured a turnover that surely prevented his side going to 0-14. Worked himself and was guilty of some unintelligent play later in the match but has future All Black written all over him.

6. Tom Sanders – 6/10

Not the Colonel’s best day out. To his credit he brought intent, yet slippery fingers contributed to some handling errors, in particular a knock on when on the attack in the Highlanders 22. A Court-Martialling offence.

5. Quinten Strange – 6/10

Plenty to both like and dislike in his performance. Caused the Highlanders some issues in the lineout and had some quality involvements in possession and pinched a turnover but was guilty of missing a few tackles.

4. Sam Whitelock – 7/10

Got caught out in defence early in the match that lead to the Highlanders’ first try. Gave away a few silly errors but like the legend he is was instrumental in just getting his side back to some basic rugby and worked himself for the cause despite a poor pass that lead to a Highlanders intercept. He’s still got it.

3. Michael Alaalatoa – 6/10

Bit quite today ‘Big Mike’. Did his bit in the set piece and came off the line well but wasn’t his best performance today, but it was enough.

2. Codie Taylor – 7.5/10

A warrior performance. Despite some uncharacteristic errors, his efforts be it a turnover, a bullocking run or a dominant tackle, kept the Crusaders in the match when his side were in trouble. Quality shift.

1. Joe Moody – 6/10 

Only 15 minutes for ‘Big Joe’ yet during that time he made several uncharacteristic mistakes be it ball handling or discipline yet he worked himself hard in that short performance prior to sustaining a neck injury.

Replacements:

16. Andrew Makalio – 6 /10

Was guilty of an over throw deep on the attack which is blot in his page but had some impact when his side needed it.

17. George Bower – 6.5/10

Played more than he would have expected and handled it well. Just did his job as required and didn’t look out of place with more minutes at this level.

18. Oliver Jager – N/A

Was poleaxed by Sio Tomkinson and left the field on a stretcher but everyone’s favourite Irishman gave the thumbs up as he was carried off.

19. Luke Romano – 7.5/10

What a finish by the veteran. Brought the impact, knowledge and calmness required to close out this match.

20. Sione Havili – 7.5/10

Best performance this season. Was a real handful when he came on with several damaging runs into the heart of the Highlanders.

21. Mitchell Drummond – 6.5/10

Did his job and gave his back line some good service.

22. Brett Cameron – N/A

23. Leicester Fainga’anuku – N/A

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