July 28, 2018 / 10:06 AM / 8 months ago

UPDATE 1-Rugby-Mo'unga guides clinical Crusaders into Super Rugby final

* Mo’unga superb in clinical performance

* Crusaders into 13th final in 23rd season

* Eight-times champions too strong for Hurricanes (Adds details, quotes)

WELLINGTON, July 28 (Reuters) - Flyhalf Richie Mo’unga was instrumental as a dominant and clinical Canterbury Crusaders side overwhelmed the Wellington Hurricanes 30-12 in an all-New Zealand Super Rugby semi-final in Christchurch on Saturday.

The eight-times champions will meet the winners of Saturday’s second semi-final between South Africa’s Lions and New South Wales Waratahs in next week’s final in Christchurch, their 13th title-decider in 23 seasons of Super Rugby.

Mo’unga, who made his All Blacks test debut against France last month, scored a try, slotted 10 points with the boot and kept his side going forward with superb game management to ensure the Crusaders would host their first final in 10 years.

Outside backs George Bridge, David Havili and Braydon Ennor also scored tries for the home side, who were virtually impregnable in defence, restricting the Hurricanes to tries from wingers Julian Savea and Ben Lam.

“The boys stepped up ... and that’s the way it has been the whole year. Guys have stepped up when we needed them to,” said Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock.

“We knew it was going to take a whole 80 minute performance and we were spot on.”

The Crusaders will go into the final on the back of a 14-game winning streak, having not tasted defeat since successive losses to the Hurricanes and Otago Highlanders in March.

The defending champions have simply smothered their opponents during that run courtesy of their ability to control the ball via their All Blacks-laden pack.

On Saturday, they started with eight All Blacks forwards on the pitch as well as two more on the bench and there was no mercy for their compatriots from the north island.

They smashed into contact, making ground on attack and driving the Hurricanes ball carriers back in the tackle.

While Mo’unga’s 15th-minute try was reward for their dominance of the early collisions, the rest of the home side’s first-half points came from their ability to punish errors.

Winger Bridge’s try was the result of Hurricanes centre Ngani Laumape having a kick charged down and conceding a penalty, while Mo’unga added two penalties within three minutes, again from Hurricanes mistakes.

The Crusaders held an 18-7 lead at the break and fullback Havili extended that four minutes into the second half following another Hurricanes error, when Nehe Milner-Skudder sliced a kick on halfway that gave away possession and field position.

The Hurricanes dominated for long periods of the second half but were held out with smashing defence and replacement winger Ennor’s try from Mo’unga’s cross kick with just over 10 minutes left on the clock all but secured the victory.

Lam crossed after the hooter for his competition-leading 16th try of the season but it was merely a consolation.

“We were pretty disappointed to finish like that and it shows the quality of the side they put out,” said Hurricanes captain Brad Shields, who is now leaving for English club Wasps.

“You have to build phases down the right end of the field and a couple of times we let them off the hook pretty easy and they turned it around.” (Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

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