Crusaders kept their impressive home record intact with a hard-fought 30-26 win over the Hurricanes at Christchurch.
It extended the nine-time champion Crusaders unbeaten home record to 30 although twice in the second half the Hurricanes closed within one point and threatened a boilover.
The Jaguares had earlier qualified for the final for the first time when they swamped the Brumbies 39-7 in Buenos Aires.
The Crusaders led 13-0 after 38 minutes before a dramatic turn in the game when the Hurricanes dropped their kicking plan and took to running the ball.
They scored just on half-time and immediately after the resumption to close within one point.
But every time they touched down the Crusaders responded and opened up a four-point gap at the end with a Richie Mo’unga penalty.
“Both teams really deserved to win that,” Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said.
“It had Test match intensity.”
Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock was concerned with how many of his side would be available for next week’s final.
“There are some sore bodies, guys already have ice and some with slings,” he said.
Hurricanes skipper Dane Coles said his side fought hard.
“In the first half they started really well but we absorbed the pressure and started really well in the second half.”
In the crucial battle of the fly-halves, it was Mo’unga who controlled the game in the first half with his options of whether to run or kick.
Beauden Barrett’s kicking game was erratic at first but when he adopted a running game after the break it snapped the Hurricanes into effective action.
From being guilty of kicking away too much possession which the Crusaders were only too happy to run back at them in the first half, the Hurricanes ran hard in the second and stretched the Crusaders defence.
The Crusaders were first on the board with a Mo’unga penalty before Sevu Reece scored the opening try after George Bridge won possession in an aerial contest with Jonah Lowe.
In the shadow of half-time, the Hurricanes made a sustained attack with the ball, ignited by a 40-metre run from Jordie Barrett, which ended with the powerful Ngani Laumape forcing his way over the line.
The Hurricanes made an explosive start to the second half with a Matt Proctor break sending Ben Lam over in the corner.
From the restart, the Crusaders struck back immediately when a wayward Hurricanes clearing kick saw Mo’unga mount a counter-attack which he was on hand to finish and convert.
The Hurricanes wasted no time with their reply when Laumape kicked a loose ball into open territory and was quick enough to recover possession and score.
When Reece scored his second try the Hurricanes responded with a try to TJ Perenara to lock the score at 27-26 before Mo’unga’s final penalty.
As the top side in the regular season the Crusaders, who are the defending champions, will host the final against the Jaguares next Saturday.
*As it happened: Crusaders v Hurricanes
Man of the match: This was certainly an amazing portray of what New Zealand rugby is all about. Hurricanes stars like Ardie Savea, Dane Coles, Ngani Laumape and TJ Perenara produced scintillating performances. While for the Crusaders Sevu Reece, Sam Whitelock and Kieran Read were in tremendous form. Hurricanes Beauden Barrett was just as impressive in the second half, however, our nod goes to Crusaders flyhalf Richie Mo’unga, not only was he accurate from the tee, but the pivot’s lethal runs set up most of his team’s tries.
Tries: Reece 2, Mo’unga
Cons: Mo’unga 3
Pens: Mo’unga 3
Tries: Laumape 2, Lam, Perenara
Cons: B. Barrett 3
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 5 Samuel Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 George Bower, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Braydon Ennor.
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Jonah Lowe, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Thomas Perenara, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Jeff To’omaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles (captain), 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Xavier Numia, 18 Ben May, 19 Kane Le’aupepe, 20 Vaea Fifita, 21 Richard Judd, 22 James Marshall, 23 Salesi Rayasi.
Referee: Nicholas Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Paul Williams (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
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