I had hoped that when it came time to do my Super Rugby final write-up, I would be able to boast about my mighty Crusaders lifting the trophy. Alas, it was not meant to be… and I had a feeling that would be the case.
Throughout the entire season there was one team that performed consistently, one team that was expected to win every game, one team that seemed to be another level above the rest, and that team was the Waratahs. The Crusaders, on the other hand, had an inconsistent season and for a while there it looked as if they would be lucky to make it into the top half of the leaderboard. As a Crusaders fan, it pains me to say it, but it is the truth and I don’t know that anyone will be able to deny it.
When the teams ran onto the field on Saturday night I KNEW the Crusaders wouldn’t be taking the trophy home. I HOPED they would, but deep down, I knew the Waratahs would do what they had to do to win the trophy.
Unlike other Crusaders fans, I’m not going to suggest the Crusaders had the game stolen from them because of a bad refereeing decision. It was the Crusaders who lost it for the Crusaders, in the first 25 minutes of the game, the players admitted as much themselves.
I don’t think the Crusaders’ loss came down to a bad performance by a particular player, I don’t even think the Crusaders played badly, they were just outplayed by a better team on the night. A lot was made of the impact Dan Carter would have, but after playing most of the season without him, I don’t know that him being on the field for the full 80 would have made a lot of difference, especially not with the way Colin Slade was kicking!
Finals so often come down to teams making the most of what could be considered insignificant moments at the time they happen. A penalty here, a turnover there, a kick going out on the full, a kick going dead, a foot in touch, a wonky lineout throw, a missed tackle, a try saving tackle; in a close game like was had on Saturday night, it’s the team who makes the most of those seemingly insignificant moments that comes out on top.
As the media so often do, they were quick to declare the Crusaders as ‘has beens’, stating they are no longer the dominant force in Super Rugby that they once were. Dan Carter and Richie McCaw are past their prime, the backs lack true leadership, their coaching team aren’t getting the job done.
Not once did I read ‘the Crusaders lost because the Waratahs deserved to win, after a spectacular season’. I think that is bloody insulting to the Waratahs, basically implying they only won because x, y and z is wrong with the Crusaders. The Crusaders were out-played. They played a good game, it was by all standards a great example of what finals footy should be like, but on the night the Waratahs were the better team.
New Zealand needs to stop living in the past. The Crusaders were once the dominant force in Super Rugby, but times change, teams change, players come and go, coaches come and go… it is the natural order of things, what goes up must come down. It is GOOD that there is no one obviously dominant team in Super Rugby today, it means the level of play has increased across the board. It’s leading to more exciting competitions, it’s meaning that every game really does count.
Not so long ago the title contenders would have been obvious after 10 or so rounds, but not today. It’s great! It’s what a world class competition, featuring world class teams SHOULD be like! I loved the excitement, the nerves, the anticipation that was still present in the last round robin game this year! Other than the Waratahs, Crusaders and Sharks, the final top six spots could have gone to any number of teams.
It’s what rugby should be like!
While I am gutted the Crusaders didn’t manage to pull off the win, I think they did amazingly well to make it to the final this season, after what was a less than stellar first half of the season. People seem to forget that losing in the final still means the team was second overall and that is a huge feat!
I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the Waratahs and their supporters, on what has been a great Super Rugby season for the team. I hope that the people of Australia will stand up and take note, and be proud of what was a great showcase for rugby in Australia!
… but they shouldn’t get carried away, the All Blacks WILL retain the Bledisloe.