Cameron McMillan uses a hazy memory, YouTube highlights and Herald match reports to rank the previous 23 final encounters.
23) Bulls 61 Chiefs 17 - 2009
Stephen Donald set up Lelia Masaga for the opening try thanks to some classy footwork to give the visitors a 7-0 lead. And that was that from the Chiefs. The Bulls scored 34 straight points in the first half, capped off by a Bryan Habana intercept just before the break. Game over by halftime. At least it had tries.
Fun fact: The Bulls recorded eight tries but also managed a drop goal for good measure.
22) Crusaders 19 Hurricanes 12 - 2006
The only final to have a nickname - The Fog Final. Just a really bad sporting occasion. Fans couldn't see the field, commentators couldn't see players and players couldn't see the ball. What everyone missed was nine converted penalties and one try. Despite the conditions the match had a somewhat exciting finish with the Hurricanes attempting to run the ball from their own 22m to score and force extra-time. A Crusaders fan in the NZME sports department claims the fog saved the Hurricanes from a humiliating thrashing.
Fun fact: The Crusaders didn't have a reserve halfback.
21) Brumbies 36 Sharks 6 - 2001
Where were you when the Brumbies became the first team outside of New Zealand to claim a Super 12 title? Many New Zealanders no doubt checked out when zero Kiwi sides made the semifinals (Richie McCaw made his test debut months later and New Zealand rugby was saved). This was one of the hardest finals to track down on YouTube with a really poor quality season review the only thing to go off. I can confirm Gregan threw that trademark inside flick pass at least once and the Sharks were never really in the match.
Fun fact: The 2001 final was played on May 26. This year's final is July 6.
20) Chiefs 37 Sharks 6 - 2012
The Chiefs were playing a Sharks side that had to travel from Brisbane to Cape Town to Hamilton during the playoffs to make the final. The Chiefs had the first week off before beating the Crusaders in a home semi. There was no way it was going to be competitive. Well it was for the first 20 but after that it was an easy win for the Chiefs. Sonny Bill Williams and the pack were instrumental as the Chiefs secured their first title. Still, not the best watch.
Fun fact: Craig Clarke played 80 minutes with a grade two medial ligament knee strain in the semifinal, usually a six to eight-week injury.
19) Bulls 25 Stormers 17 - 2010
Did anyone get up to watch this game? It featured vuvuzelas, because it was South Africa in 2010, and ref Craig Joubert blowing his whistle and saying 'roll away' a lot. It sounds like a close game but the Bulls led 25-10 with three minutes to play. After his side's loss Schalk Burger didn't holding back when he claimed Joubert was "coaching the Bulls, but penalising the Stormers". Francois Hougaard's breakaway try and Bryan Habana's intercept try were both pretty impressive but didn't make up for watching Morne Stetyn line-up penalty after penalty.
Fun fact: This was the last Super 14 game, so we can assume the Bulls still have that ugly trophy
18) Hurricanes 20 Lions 3 - 2016
A special one for those long-suffering Hurricanes fans but not a great match for the neutral. The weather was woeful and the Lions made plenty of mistakes and were simply no match for the methodical 'Canes.
Fun fact: Three is the lowest points scored in a Super Rugby final.
17) Blues 23 Brumbies 7 - 1997
No one really gave the Brumbies a chance and they didn't have one as the Blues cruised to a second title. This game is not on YouTube, you would think long-suffering Blues fans would want to re-live past glories, but according to reports it was wet and locked-up at 0-0 for the first 30 minutes. The Blues took control and led 23-0 before a late Brumbies try. Not exactly a barnburner. Still it had Michael Jones so bonus points there.
Fun fact: An ancient scroll from the Herald citadel stated 40,000 Aucklanders turned up for a rugby game that didn't feature the All Blacks. Must be a typo.
16) Crusaders 37 Lions 18 - 2018
The Lions were leading 3-0...and then the Crusaders scored 20 straight points to pretty much put away the game. Richie Mo'unga put in a cracking performance. Ryan Crotty's yellow card for kicking the ball out of a Lions ruck, combined with a try to impressive hooker Malcolm Marx, would have made for a slightly nervy time for Crusaders coach Robertson as the score was narrowed to 30-18 with 13 minutes to play but Scott Barrett closed it out a couple of minutes later with the Crusaders fourth try.
Fun fact: The Lions became the first team to lose three straight finals.
Bonus hot take: The worst venue to hold a Super Rugby final.
15) Crusaders 35 Waratahs 25 - 2005
When the Waratahs make a Super Rugby final, the Crusaders are always waiting for them. This was the first of three meetings in the final between the two teams. The Waratahs scored 19 unanswered points in the final quarter but the game was long since won by the Crusaders who were all class.
Fun fact: Justin Marshall's 105th and final game for the Crusaders.
14) Crusaders 31 Brumbies 17 - 2002
This was Crusaders-Brumbies II of the great Super Rugby final trilogy and to be honest I struggle to tell one clash from the other. This one was briefly exciting when the Brumbies, playing into a strong wind in the second half, closed the gap to just one point with eight minutes left when Andrew Walker scored an intercept try. The Crusaders then kicked a dropped goal and scored two quick tries to win their first title on home soil.
Fun fact: 14 of the Crusaders' starting side played for the All Blacks, with Fijian international Marika Vunibaka the only exception.
13) Crusaders 25 Lions 17 - 2017
The scoreline was close but the Crusaders dominated the encounter before fading late. Seven minutes in Kieran Read hit Elton Jantjies hard to force a turnover and Seta Tamanivalu ran 70m to score. Four minutes later Jack Goodhue added a second in the lefthand corner. Giving the Crusaders an early 12-0 lead is not a great idea. An even worse idea is tackling David Havili in mid-air - which Kwagga Smith did just before halftime which saw him sent off. A Read try after halftime made it 22-3 and all but guaranteed the win. The Lions launched a comeback and scored two tries in the final quarter as the Crusaders started to run out of gas. Coach Scott Robertson said 10 minutes longer and they wouldn't have lasted.
Fun fact: Smith was the first player ever sent off in a final.
12) Crusaders 20 Waratahs 12 - 2008
The other trilogy - Crusaders-Waratahs II. The shock looked to be on when Dan Carter threw an intercept to Phil Waugh, leading to a second Waratahs' try and a 12-3 lead after 26 minutes. But the Crusaders clawed their way back with a Mose Tuiali'i try making it 12-11 at the break. Brad Thorn was yellow-carded for a punch, which over-turned a Wyatt Crockett try, in the second half and that should have been the turning point. However the Waratahs failed to score with an extra man and Carter kicked the Crusaders back into the lead and to a seventh title.
Fun fact: Robbie Deans would coach Australia to victory over the All Blacks less than two months later.
11) Chiefs 27 Brumbies 22 - 2013
This match came alight in the second half as the Chiefs produced arguably the best comeback in a final. Both sides traded penalties for most of the first half before Christian Lealiifano broke a 9-9 deadlock with a breakaway try just before halftime. The Brumbies were leading 22-12 with 17 minutes remaining before Liam Messam and Robbie Robinson scored within four minutes of each other. An Aaron Cruden conversion and a penalty secured the Chiefs back-to-back titles. There was late drama when the Jesse Mogg kicked for touch following a penalty with 20 seconds left which would have given the Brumbies an attacking lineout - but he missed touch.
Fun fact: Christian Lealiifano scored all of the Brumbies' 22 points.
10) Brumbies 47 Crusaders 38 - 2004
The Crusaders scored six tries and still lost the final! The two teams noted for strong defence decided to disregard tackling, or any form of stopping the opposition it seemed based on Ben Blair's balls-up in the opening minute which gifted the Brumbies a try. Another mistake from Blair two minutes later and the Brumbies were in again. The Brumbies had a 40-14 after 56 minutes and to their credit the Crusaders launched a brief fightback but a Brumbies' victory was never really in doubt.
Fun fact: Mark Gerrard became the first player, and still only, to score a hat-trick in a final.
9) Crusaders 20 Brumbies 19 - 2000
The television movie The Kick should have been based on the Ron Cribb try. The number eight busted the staunch Brumbies' defence and then chipped ahead and regathered to extend the Crusaders to a 17-6 second half lead. A 19-year-old George Smith gave the final some late life with a try before Mehrtens secured back-to-back titles with a penalty.
Fun fact: Cribb topped off the try by mimicking drinking a beer and putting an empty can on his head.
8) Blues 21 Crusaders 17 - 2003
Two tries from lineout moves! That's instant classic status right there. The first of Mark Hammett's double came from a classy lineout move while Carlos Spencer gifted the hooker the second when he dropped a pass cold close to his line, which Hammett pounced on to score and make it 10-6 at the break. Doug Howlett put the Blues in the lead with a try, his 12th of the season, before Daniel Braid extended the lead from a rolling maul off a lineout. That put the Blues out to a 21-10 lead and the Crusaders scored late through Caleb Ralph to make it a close finish. Not exactly a classic.
7) Crusaders 24 Highlanders 19 - 1999
Featured the second best individual try in a final. The Crusaders had a scrum on their side of halfway and went on the blindside to right winger Afato So'oalo who stepped the first defender in Brian Lima, then chipped past Jeff Wilson and gassed the All Black great to dive on the bouncing ball. It put the Crusaders up 21-14 with 17 minutes left and Mehrtens added a drop goal minutes later to extend the lead. The Highlanders scored a late try and had the ball in the Crusaders half with time up before a forward pass ended the final.
Fun fact: The last final to be played in an afternoon kickoff in New Zealand.
6) Blues 45 Sharks 21 - 1996
The first ever final was a treat because it featured Jonah Lomu at his rampaging best. He was almost unstoppable running in the first try with ease and when he was stopped minutes later he just passed to Carlos Spencer who scored in support for the second try of the final. The Sharks clawed back to make it 20-16 at halftime after trailing 20-3 but the Blues dominated the second half with four tries including an Andrew Blowers' double.
Fun fact: Graham Henry would coach the All Blacks to a World Cup title at the same ground a mere 15 years later.
5) Waratahs 33 Crusaders 32 - 2014
It's a game remembered for a penalty call that decided the final. Whichever side of the Craig Joubert call you're on, you can't deny that's a pretty dramatic way to finish a game. However Joubert was all over the game, with 14 penalties attempted and 13 of those converted. The Crusaders fought back after being down 14-0 after 15 minutes and Colin Slade looked to win it with a penalty in the 76th minute that put the Crusaders up 32-30. Richie McCaw was then penalised two minutes later right in front for joining the ruck incorrectly. Bernard Foley stepped up a slotted it.
Fun fact: The last Super Rugby final with Joubert in charge.
4) Highlanders 21 Hurricanes 14 - 2015
This was 80 minutes of two teams just bashing each other in a frenzy. At one point in the first half there was almost five minutes of continuous play separated by a lineout. There were mistakes and it took some time for the first try, with Ma'a Nonu diving over in the corner late in the first half, but it was an epic encounter with the big controversial moment before the break. The Elliot Dixon try that wasn't was a big turning point which gave the Highlanders an eight-point lead.
Waisake Naholo scored after halftime to make it 18-8 and the 'Canes closed the gap with a penalty before Julian Savea dropped the ball five metres from the tryline which would have taken the lead. Marty Banks closed out the win with a dropped goal with three minutes left.
Fun fact: The Highlanders were the first team under the quarterfinal format to win a title after finishing the season in fourth place.
Bonus fun fact: Nonu also scored a try in the World Cup final the same year.
3) Reds 18 Crusaders 13 - 2011
This final had three pretty amazing tries. Dan Carter scored a gem after a dour opening 34 minutes where he beat the line by chipping ahead with his right boot, caught the ball on the second bounce and ran in to score. Here it is on YouTube supported by background music courtesy of Montreal rockers Arcade Fire. Digby Ioane put the Reds back in the lead in the second half with some brilliant footwork. Then locked up at 13-13, with 13 minutes left, Will Genia scored the greatest individual try in a final, starting from the back of a ruck with nothing on before deciding he might as well run 63 metres and win the game himself.
A packed Suncorp Stadium is something special and the atmosphere certainly helped make this final a match worthy of the occasion.
Fun fact: A Kiwi (Bryce Lawrence) was in charge of the game and the Aussies didn't seem to mind.
2) Crusaders 20 Blues 13 - 1998
A day final in New Zealand...those were the days. Would be the top ranked final if it wasn't for the fact the only scoring in the first half was one penalty, which came in the 31st minute. The second half was great however. James Christian's opening try set up by twinkle toes Lee Stensness gave the Blues the lead which Adrian Cashmore extended with a drop goal. Crusaders lock Norm Maxwell levelled the game up after scooping on a Carlos Spencer mistake and ran 20 metres to score.
Then the match-winner - Andrew Mehrtens had no business kicking the ball with the Crusaders holding possession and the final tied 13-13 with 30 seconds remaining. For some reason he kicked a lobbing ball into open space with James Kerr chasing. After a lucky bounce and an Ofisa Tonu'u botched attempted pass Kerr pounced on the ball to score. The final ended with Auckland hot on attack for another two minutes before a scrum was called.
1) Bulls 20 Sharks 19 - 2007
Hands down the best finish to a final. The Sharks looked to have secured a maiden title with a Albert Van den Berg try in the 78th minute to make it 19-13, however Francois Steyn missed a fairly simple conversion which would have made it an eight-point buffer.
Down by six points and seven seconds left on the clock, Bulls hooker Gary Botha kicked away possession which should have been the game...for some reason Steyn then kicked the ball straight back. A minute later with time expired Bryan Habana was tackled near the touchline...for some reason the Sharks didn't get him into touch. Then the Bulls moved down the field and the Sharks looked to have turned the ball over...for some reason they lost possession again. 38 seconds later Habana crossed over for the match-winner in a crazy finish. The Sharks botched the final two minutes to lose their third final in a match which included two try-saving tackles and some individual brilliance from Habana to win it.
Fun fact: Habana and nine of his Bulls teammates would go on to win the Rugby World Cup in the same year - the first players to do the double.