The Richie and Beaudie show turns big match into unforgettable spectacle.

Super Rugby playoff matches in Christchurch aren't supposed to follow this sort of script but Richie Mo'unga and Beauden Barrett elevated last night's semifinal to the status of instant classic.

The match-ups of New Zealand's two best No10s and teams were highly anticipated and yet sudden-death matches can be fairly dry and prosaic affairs (especially in near sub-zero temperatures), with one team (Crusaders) usually dominating the other and the result all but decided early in the second half.

Well, that's how it normally goes. But not this time, not after Barrett and his side decided when 13-7 down at halftime that a conservative game plan wasn't going to cut it against the defending champions who have never lost a playoff game at home.

And so the Hurricanes did what they do best; they played with an enthusiasm and joy that simply wasn't there in the first half and it was started by Barrett and his supremely influential halfback TJ Perenara.


For every piece of quality play provided by Mo'unga, so Barrett had a response, to the point where even the watching All Black selectors must have been wondering what was going to happen next because this was new and exciting territory for all.

There was punch and counter-punch in terms of their running games – and both men were knocked around, especially Mo'unga in the first half (a late and potentially dangerous charge by Dane Coles) but remained standing – and their kicking and passing games, too.

Both displayed an incredible ability to set their backlines alight but to do so with such composure given what was at stake set this match apart this season and perhaps much longer, because it's difficult to remember such influential and quality performances from opposing No10s in a Super Rugby match. In the end, they probably finished on equal terms.

"You've got to give it to Richie, he's pretty clutch kicking those threes and kicks from the sideline, keeping us ahead. They were always chasing. The defence in the end was remarkable," Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson said.

It was, but the Crusaders were fortunate referee Nic Berry didn't rule against Sam Whitelock for knocking the ball out of Perenara's hands at the end, although the Hurricanes were beneficiaries of several benign breakdown decisions from Berry too. The Crusaders prevailed 30-26, but Barrett and his teammates have every reason to be incredibly proud of their performances.

"It was absolutely deserving of a Super Rugby final," Robertson said. "It was test match intensity. You have to give it to the Hurricanes, it could have gone either way."

And so the Crusaders' dream of three titles in a row stays alive and they will host the Jaguares next Saturday, although potentially without lock Scott Barrett and and fellow All Black midfielder Ryan Crotty.

The pair left the field early and were sent for X-rays – Barrett for a potential broken bone in a hand and Crotty, who will play overseas next year, a possible fracture in a thumb. Prop Joe Moody's shoulder issue is less of a concern.


Can next week's final between two near international-strength teams live up to last night's dramatics? Possibly, but it's becoming increasingly clear that Mo'unga must come through it unscathed because he and Barrett could set the World Cup alight in a few months' time.

Perfect 10s:
Richie Mo'unga: 12 runs, 96m with ball, five defenders beaten, two clean breaks, one offload, one try, 100 per cent goalkicking (three cons, three pens)

Beauden Barrett: 21 runs, 59m with ball, six defenders beaten, three clean breaks, one offload, 75 per cent goalkicking (three out of four conversion attempts)