Crusaders take Super 12 title
May 28, 2005
Crusaders captain Richie McCaw lifts the Super 12 silverware
© Getty Images
The Crusaders have cemented their status as the most dominant team of the Super 12 era with a nerveless 35-25 win over the Waratahs at Jade Stadium.
Despite a belated three-try comeback from the Waratahs, the short-priced favourites deservedly claimed their fifth title in the tenth and final year of the competition before it changes to Super 14.
The visitors knew the match would be won and lost at the breakdown but could do little to stop the home side's peerless display at the tackle contest. It was a typically powerhouse 80 minutes by the seven-time finalists, vital turnovers by the likes of captain Richie McCaw and quick work at the breakdown ensuring a steady stream of ball to their fluid backs.
The home side took a 14-6 halftime lead, scoring the only try of the first half through Scott Hamilton in the 13th minute after an explosive break and kick through by winger Rico Gear. Two tries in the opening 23 minutes of the second half broke the back of the visitors before centre Caleb Ralph's 67th minute effort gave the Crusaders a 35-6 lead. Ralph's try was typical of how Canterbury punished mistakes all evening.
There were consolation tries to flanker Phil Waugh and a double to fullback Mat Rogers late in the match but NSW were never a threat of stealing the game. "I was trying to do the maths there at one stage to work out what was going on," said Crusaders captain Richie McCaw said of the Waratahs' late surge.
"We let them probably in with a couple of soft opportunities but the 70-odd minutes before that was pretty effective so I won't look at it too hard I guess."
The Waratahs' defence was again outstanding but their kicking game was far from great, Rogers in particular struggling to fire off any deep kicks. Two penalty goals to Peter Hewat kept the visitors in the hunt in the first period, but Crusaders' five-eighth Dan Carter equalled that tally before a smart drop goal to Aaron Mauger gave Canterbury a handy halftime lead.
The Crusaders lifted a gear in the second half and sent departing halfback Justin Marshall and prop Dave Hewett off as winners. It wasn't the same feeling for the players departing NSW including Justin Harrison (Ulster), Nathan Grey (Kyuden, Japan), Brendan Cannon, Lachlan MacKay and Cameron Shepherd (Western Force).
"We are definitely looking at this as the start of something for us but it would be remiss to say it's not heartbreaking that we didn't get to send off guys that have given us great service like Nathan Grey, Justin Harrison and Brendan Cannon and other guys going to Perth," said Waratahs centre Morgan Turinui.
The Wallabies suffered a blow from the match as well with Waratahs second rower Daniel Vickerman sustaining a shoulder injury.He is expected to be out for a month and will miss at least the first two Tests of the year against Samoa and Italy.
The Crusaders' Justin Marshall, left, Dave Hewett and Andrew Mehrtens celebrate with the Super 12 trophy © Getty Images
England broke their losing streak, but this was not them clawing their way back among the best, writes Tom Hamilton
Wales were just 13 minutes from a famous victory, but the lessons to be learned in defeat are almost exactly the same as those from previous near-misses, writes Huw Richards
Ahead of England's clash with Samoa, Scrum Sevens takes a wander down memory lane and celebrates seven examples of Pacific Islands magic
England must find a way to improve their game by tiny margins and they will get there, writes Phil Vickery