What Richie Mo'unga said to Brad Weber after the Super Rugby Aotearoa grand final
Brad Weber was an inspirational skipper for the Chiefs this year, taking over sole responsibilities of the role after co-captain Sam Cane was struck down by injury part-way through the campaign.
He was at his best again in last night’s 24-13 defeat, despite taking a nasty accidental knock to the head in the 14th minute and spending some time on the sidelines.
While the unfancied Chiefs were in with a sniff for the better part of the game and looked like they might squeeze a victory after the Crusaders lost two men to the sin-bin, the Crusaders eventually showed their class and pulled away in the final quarter, nabbing the last nine points of the relatively low-scoring match.
Richie Mo’unga was the player of the match, finishing the game with 90 run metres and two exceptional line breaks. He also nailed a drop goal, three penalties and one conversion plus threw the final pass in the build-up to Sevu Reece’s opening try of the match.
Naturally, the Crusaders celebrated the result when referee Ben O’Keeffe blew the final whistle but they didn’t forget about their opposition – many of whom they’ve played with in the international arena.
Mo’unga, the man of the hour, approached Weber to offer his commiserations, with the Chiefs captain revealing exactly what the Crusaders pivot had said to him in a post-match interview.
“He just congratulated me on leading the boys to here and what an awesome job that our lads have done this season,” Weber told Sky Sports’ Kirsty Stanaway. “He was really impressed and, obviously, I gave the same back.
“He’s the lynchpin of that team and he’s been outstanding all year and obviously I’m bloody devastated but happy for him.”
Weber was typically honest in his appraisal of the game.
“I’m absolutely devastated,” he said. “This is not how I saw tonight going. I envisaged us winning tonight.
“However, we did our absolute best, man. We threw everything at it. We had a hell of a week. We threw everything at them. We just weren’t good enough tonight.
“The Crusaders were incredibly clinical, even with guys in the bin, and their set-piece was just too good tonight. I’ve said all season that if you can get parity with the Crusaders at set-piece, you can go a long way to beating them. We certainly back our phase play attack and when we got going we looked all right but just couldn’t get enough of it.”
"If you need someone to create a hole in the opposition midfield, you give the ball to Leicester Fainga’anuku. If you’re looking for someone to glide through one, then David Havili is your man."#SuperRugbyAotearoa #CRUvCHI #AllBlacks
— The XV Rugby (@TheXV) May 8, 2021
While the Chiefs have had one of the better set-pieces in the competition recent weeks – ever since they were dominated by the Crusaders in their first encounter of the year in Christchurch – they were no match for All Blacks centurion Samuel Whitelock at lineout time, who managed three pilfers in the air.
Regardless of the result, Weber was pleased with the work and effort that his teammates put into the campaign after bouncing back from two straight defeats in their opening two matches – compounding the losing streak that began last year – and is hopeful that his side can take their Super Rugby Aotearoa form into the impending Trans-Tasman competition.
“[Incredibly proud] is an understatement,” he told Stanaway. “Any other team would have broken and fractured but we stayed true to each other and to the team and to the organisation and we stayed tight and the results went our way because of that. No one complained, we all stuck to it.
“Jeez, I love those boys. Such a pleasure to lead and just gutted for them. Hopefully we can keep a bit of continuity intact and we’ll be back.”
The Chiefs start their Trans-Tasman campaign with an away game against the Western Force in Perth on Saturday night. It will be the first time the two teams have faced off since 2017.
The Crusaders, meanwhile, will welcome defeated Super Rugby AU finalists the Brumbies to Christchurch on that same evening.
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