The Crusaders scored 52 points against the Rebels, won for a fifth successive time in five matches against Australian opposition, finished with a 97 points tournament differential and still didn’t qualify for next weekend’s all-New Zealand final. Welcome to the turgidly one-sided and farcical world of Trans-Tasman rugby, writes Mark Keohane.
Hopefully, by 2022, some form of normality returns to the world of rugby and the competition structures allow for proper contests and not the one-sided excuse for a tournament that has seen New Zealand’s five franchises humiliate their Australian equivalent.
The Crusaders won the New Zealand version of Super Rugby when they beat the Chiefs in the final and the Reds won the Australian version of Super Rugby when they scored an 83rd minute try to beat the Brumbies in Brisbane.
The gulf between the Kiwi and Aussie sides was best reflected when the Crusaders went to Brisbane and stuck 63 points past the Reds at the SunCorp Stadium.
The Crusaders, in three matches in Australia, scored 63, 54 and 52 points respectively, but their strangely subdued form at home saw them sneak a 31-29 win against the Brumbies after looking in control at 31-17 and then concede a last minute length of the field try to the Force to lose a bonus point in a 29-21 win.
It meant that while the Blues and Highlanders were steamrolling the Aussie opposition that one consolation try for the Force in Christchurch proved decisive for the Crusaders, as did their poor finishing and defensive lapses in Sydney against the Rebels. The Crusaders botched three tries and gifted the Rebels an intercept try.
It has been the theme for the Crusaders in a tournament that has been more basketball than rugby. They score, the opposition scores and then they score again. They’ve been as liberal in leaking points as they have been lethal in scoring them.
The Blues and Highlanders will meet in a final at Eden Park for a tournament that should never have been played.
There were only two competition wins for Australian teams; one when the Reds enjoyed a two player advantage for 20 minutes against the Chiefs and still came close to blowing a 33-3 lead in hanging on for a one score victory and the Brumbies, who needed Hurricanes fullback Jordie Barrett missing two successive penalties in the final few minutes in Canberra for a 12-10 win.
For the rest, it was common to see the New Zealand teams racking up 40, 50 and 60 points.
The dominance of the New Zealand teams meant that the worst (5th placed) New Zealand team had more league points than all five Australian teams combined.
The Reds, Australia’s champions, won one from five, scored 18 tries and conceded 30 and had a negative points differential of 86. The Crusaders, New Zealand’s champions, won all five matches, scored a tournament high 35 tries, conceded 18 and had a points differential positive of 97. Neither side qualified for the final.
New Zealand’s five franchises won 23 of the 25 matches.
The All Blacks will also play Fiji and Tonga in a Test series that will mirror the one-sided Trans-Tasman.
The Rugby Championship can’t come soon enough for those Kiwis who actually believe rugby is a collision sport and a contest.