by Sports Benches

What a way to wrap up the 2023 Super Rugby Season where this Grand Final means everything for both the Chiefs & Crusaders as it all comes down to only 80 minutes of unreal rugby left to watch at FMG Stadium in Hamilton, NZ. The first half score was 10–15 where Crusaders register their first points on the board & coming back for more while Chiefs score their first TRY of the night. After the break, Chiefs has rebound with another TRY that puts them back in front by only a small margin. But the game wasn’t over yet with Crusaders holding the cards with the ball for the majority before they came back to break the Chiefs’ hearts on the run home thanks to their championship-winning TRY & a penalty goal right at full-time 20-25.

Unlucky from the Chiefs to finish off their 2023 season as runners-up, even though they were almost 100% unbeaten bar from the Queensland Reds loss (thankfully Chiefs got away from them unscathed this time in the Quarter-Final) throughout the regular rounds. They know how form a strong defensive line before looking to get the job done on the counter, even though Chiefs had less possession as seen a few times with the fightback there v Crusades tonight. You can’t deny their team spirit in the way coach Clayton McMillan has assembled that made them light up Super Rugby. Sadly, Chiefs fell short when ill-discipline really held back time & time again before it was too much to handle while trying to hold off a small lead in the end with the loss v a patient Saders team.

And on the Crusaders, gotta say that they’re still the most successful Super Rugby side in the 27-year history of this provincial competition. First of all, they spotted the Chiefs’ disciplinary problems well where many of the ball chances have gone the Crusaders way via winning advantages/penalties/turnovers. Yes, they had some scares v the Chiefs attacking counter before the Crusaders later shut them down while the opposition tried to stay ahead & hold top spot under pressure. But what’s most important about the Crusaders’ championship-winning shift tonight is the attacking patience where rewards went their way, having been side-by-side v Chiefs all along before they crossed the finish line first thanks to their possession. Now that is attacking football at its finest just like Bazball in cricket by NZ’s own Brendon McCullum with the England Test side. Although it remains to be seen what Rob Penney (yes, he last coached the Waratahs during their tough times in 2020 & early 2021) is gonna do with this dressing room, especially when some players are moving on to overseas since is replacing Scott Robertson from next year. Scott’s coached his last game here, having walked away every season with a Super Rugby trophy & a break dance on hand throughout his seven-year spell here ahead of the All Blacks top job in place of Ian Foster after this year’s Rugby World Cup.

After 91 matches in the 2023 Super Rugby Season, this book has now been finished with 15 rounds to look back + 3 more weeks via the Playoffs. We thought that the Chiefs would be the favourites to take Super Rugby by storm after their unreal regular season beforehand. But at the end of the way, the champions still belongs to the Crusaders yet again after they got themselves over the line tonight at such a high level. They are still standing for the 7th straight time (2020-21 Super Rugby Aotearoa does count) & 14th overall as well. Now bring on the Rugby Championship & Bledisloe Cup in a few weeks time + some Shute Shield in NSW towards the end of the season. Then it’s all about the upcoming Rugby World Cup in France come this September-October.

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