Mo'unga the magician steps up at Eden Park

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It wasn't so much his individual attacking skill that shone although he did use that to score a try. It was his control of the tempo and tactical options that allowed his side to dictate terms.


The game attracted a lot of interest. The Crusaders were aware they had a target on their backs as four-time champions, but Mo'unga said rather than being a burden, it was a privilege, an honour, to have that level of attention from opponents.


That pressure required the Crusaders to live up to the expectations.


The game had required something different from the side, especially in taking penalty goal options to keep scoreboard pressure on.


"It's not how we've won in the past, but the Blues defensively put us under pressure. Momentum swings and penalties, some out-the-gate reverse penalties, it was all happening. But to apply that scoreboard pressure, I don't think the Blues have felt, was good for us and good confidence for us just knocking over in threes.


"We can do both, win in threes or we can score tries but today was a bit more of a Test match," he said.


"I like these moments, right in the pressure cooker. That's where I want to be. It's where I perform my best under that pressure. It brings out the best in me, and it brings out the best in the team.



"For a few bits in that game we were under the pump, right under our posts. You look around, you've got all these eyes looking at you, and it gives you a good indication that they don't want to be anywhere else too, which is great," he said.


"This is the one everyone had wanted. This is the one everyone has been waiting for. The preparation through the week was unreal. A and I've got to be honest, this is the one I wanted to play in and win.


"When you're playing the Blues, there is a lot of hype with social media and whatnot. For us, it's about staying true to what the Crusaders' values are and work ethic, working hard, being really humble, and just being the best you can be for your team."


Mo'unga paid credit to the effort of his tight five who were led so well by the example of veteran lock Sam Whitelock. They had put a show on.


But their example was followed by 10 others in the team who wouldn't get credit for the way they rolled their sleeves up.


"That's what we do, what we love about rugby. It's such a team game and the boys love to put their hands up and do things like that," he said.


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