Crusaders relieved to lift morale
March 4, 2011
The Crusaders take a moment ahead of their emotional return to the field © Getty Images
Canterbury rugby icon Todd Blackadder hailed his side's emotional 33-18 win over the Waratahs as the pinnacle of his coaching career.
Under immense pressure to boost morale in the wake of Christchurch's devastating earthquake - and already responsible for honouring the memory of the Pike River mine victims in this fixture at Trafalgar Park - the Crusaders achieved both aims with a heart-warming performance.
"It's a massive pressure release," he said after surveying an exhausted though elated dressing room. "You can see it in the sheds right now in the faces of the players. I've never been more proud as a coach in my career to walk in there.
"With everything that's been going on ... to get the win for our people, it's just hard to describe. It's just a game of rugby, but hopefully the people feel really good and take some pride.
"This is their team. Everyone owns this team, the guys play for our community. We're going to fly our flag very proudly."
The relief was palpable as Blackadder and captain Kieran Read assessed a performance born of adversity and executed with the eyes of the nation upon them. Two tries from centre Robbie Fruean and another from outstanding debutant Sonny Bill Williams carried the hosts to victory with fly-half Dan Carter weighing in with 18 points with the boot.
"There's no doubt they wanted to go out there and put the performance of a lifetime on to the track," said Blackadder.
And although the squad tried to downplay the emotional significance of the third round clash with the Australian conference leaders, the All Blacks No.8 acknowledged the weight of expectation.
"There was no other option than winning really," Read said. "We're wearing this special jersey for the region, a Crusaders region that have gone through a lot of tough times. It's pretty hard to put into words. Hopefully we've done a small part to lift people's spirits."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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