Semifinals review: Crusaders clinical, Lions overrun Waratahs

The Super Rugby final will be contested by the Crusaders and Lions for the second straight year, only this time it will be played at the Christchurch franchise's fortress of AMI Stadium.

The Crusaders booked their place in the decider by seeing off the Hurricanes, who never really looked at their best across the back half of the competition. The Lions, meanwhile, fought back from an early 14-0 deficit to sink the Waratahs at Ellis Park.

Read on for a full review of the weekend's results.

Crusaders 30-12 Hurricanes

Dubbed the "real" Super Rugby final by pundits across New Zealand, the Crusaders were far too clinical in a dominant 18-point victory over the Hurricanes on Saturday night.

Always thought to have the upper hand through the forwards, the Crusaders pack proved that to be the case as they powered through the middle of the paddock all night before their backline then went to work.

There is a case to be made the eight-time champions may boast the best Super Rugby forward pack of all time. When the Crusaders forwards get a roll on they look simply unstoppable and, as a result, they made the two-time reigning World Player of the Year look second rate.

It won't be enough to see Beauden Barrett stripped of the All Blacks No.10 jersey, but the supreme confidence in which Richie Mo'unga plays behind the Crusaders forward pack - five of whom will likely line up in Bledisloe I - certainly gives selectors food for thought.

To their credit, the Hurricanes never gave up in Christchurch. But the 2016 champions always looked to be chasing the game, and were unable to get any quality phase sequences in possession.

A dubious Julian Savea try on 19 minutes cancelled out Mo'unga's earlier, opener before George Bridge ensured the Crusaders went to the break with the upper hand when he crossed 11 minutes out from halftime.

The Crusaders then extended their 11-point buffer through David Havili four minutes after the resumption when the fullback hit a flat pass from Mo'unga to power over the line. The fly-half then iced his superb performance with his second assist of the game; a perfectly placed cross-kick scooped up by Braydon Ennor.

There was a late consolation try to Hurricanes winger Ben Lam - his 16th five-pointer breaking Joe Roff's long-standing record - but it did little to take away from yet another masterful Crusaders performance that kept their unbeaten record in home finals matches alive.

Their 21st playoff win streak in Christchurch will, in all likelihood, be extended to 22 this Saturday. Having gone to Johannesburg and beaten the Lions in last year's decider, the Crusaders already hold a psychological advantage over the two-time Super Rugby bridesmaids.

Scott Robertson has his team in peak condition and playing with a supreme level of confidence. A ninth Super Rugby title has been within striking distance from well before even the midway point of this year's competition, it now appears to be a foregone conclusion.

Lions 44-26 Waratahs

The chances of the Lions travelling to New Zealand and beating the Crusaders are slim. Some people would even say they have absolutely no chance.

But you can't win the lottery if you don't buy a ticket. The Lions have their ticket, and now they have to believe that stand a chance at victory, otherwise this week's trip to Christchurch is basically a sightseeing visit.

The key for the South Africans will be a fast start, which is something they haven't been able to do in the playoffs over the last couple of years. They played catch up in all of their postseason matches last year and were eventually burnt by the Crusaders in the final.

On Saturday, the Lions found themselves 14-0 down against the Waratahs in the semis, after also trailing in the Jaguares in the quarterfinals. The Lions managed to roar back in both those games, but coach Swys de Bruin will know that they can't go and start slow in Christchurch.

The Lions relied on a lot of individual brilliance to down a spirited Waratahs side, while they also used their maul and scrum dominance to great effect. They also denied the Tahs quick ball in the second half, after watching a dominant Kurley Beale run riot in the first quarter.

Lions back-rower Kwagga Smith was superb as he picked up a brace of tries and generally annoyed the Waratahs throughout the contest. Alongside hooker Malcom Marx, Smith has the up-tempo game needed to go with the Crusaders this Saturday, but only if the entire Lions pack can aim up through the middle as well.

The Waratahs can be proud of their season, but they will lament their final-round loss to the Brumbies as well as the heart-breaking defeat by the Crusaders in Christchurch. Still, Daryl Gibson has done well to turn things around after a disastrous 2017 season when the Waratahs finished 16th.

Looking ahead to Saturday, the Lions will likely look to hit the Crusaders through their scrum and maul despite the defending champions being a far stronger outfit in those departments than the Waratahs. They also have powerful players who compete hard at the breakdown.

But even if they play out of their skin at AMI Stadium, the Lions will also need a bit luck to go out and win the ultimate lottery.