Cardiff Blues 26-26 Leicester Tigers, (aet, 7-6 on pens)
Crane makes Blues pay the penalty
May 3, 2009
Leicester Tigers boss Richard Cockerill consoles Cardiff Blues' Martyn Williams following the dramatic finale at the Millennium Stadium © Getty Images
Jordan Crane booted Leicester to a history-making Heineken Cup semi-final victory over Cardiff Blues, and then admitted: "I am in no hurry to take another kick."
No.8 Crane was Leicester's unlikely hero at the end of a Millennium Stadium showdown that ended in unprecedented fashion. With the teams locked at 26-26 after extra time, it came down to a penalty competition to decide who would face Leinster at Murrayfield on May 23.
And it was Crane who came up trumps, giving Leicester a 7-6 verdict on penalties, sending his kick from 22 metres between the posts after Blues' flanker Martyn Williams' missed attempt handed him his match-winning opportunity.
Blues' wing Tom James missed a chance just moments earlier to win the shoot-out 5-3, but he failed to hold his nerve and Leicester secured a place in their fifth Heineken final to also stay firmly on course for a third European and domestic double.
Reflecting on the late drama, Crane said: "I actually enjoyed it. I've taken a few kicks in training, although I have to say I am in no hurry to take another kick. I never thought it was going to carry on all the way to my go, but once it did, I just tried not to worry about the moment.
"The pressure was off me because Martyn Williams had missed his (kick), so I just stepped up and gave it a shot. I knew no-one would hold it against me if I missed, but it was an unbelievable feeling to get the winner. It's a great feeling to be going to Edinburgh for the final."
Leicester skipper Geordan Murphy added, "It is a nasty, horrible way to lose and I feel really sorry for the Cardiff boys. It is not much of a way to win either and we will have to play much better to beat Leinster in the final."
Murphy revealed that when James lined-up his kick he had called the Leicester players into a huddle to congratulate them on their efforts, almost as if he was anticipating a defeat.
"I told the players I was incredibly proud of them whatever happened with that next kick," he said. "I think we would have felt quite hard done by if we had lost the game, and we were still in the huddle when James missed. Taking kicks like that is not something you practice throughout the season, but I was pretty confident we had some guys there who could take them. Jordan Crane and Craig Newby are a couple of show-pony forwards, so I was glad when they stepped-up!"
Leicester looked to have the game won when they led 26-12 with only six minutes of normal time left. Tries by Murphy and Scott Hamilton, plus 16 points from the boot of scrum-half Julien Dupuy put Leicester in charge as the Blues could only reply through two penalties a piece by fullback Ben Blair and wing Leigh Halfpenny. But the home side finished brilliantly in front of a 44,000 crowd as Wales' centre Jamie Roberts and James conjured tries, with Blair converting both from the touchline.
Leicester head coach Richard Cockerill said, "I thought we played pretty well, and for 72 minutes we were probably the better side, but credit to Cardiff for coming back like they did. It is a cruel way to lose, and not a great way to win. Penalties might be a great spectacle but it was a pretty hollow way to end the game.
"To reach the final of what is probably the biggest tournament in world rugby is a great achievement. Only a couple of days ago everyone was talking about Munster versus Cardiff in the final, but now it is Leinster versus Leicester."
And as for Crane's last-gasp exploits, Cockerill added, "He is a very confident young man. He came to us from Leeds, he has worked really hard and he is now one of our core guys. He is keeping some big people out of this team, and he should be looked at by England in the summer."
While Leicester celebrated, the Blues were predictably inconsolable. Blues head coach David Young said, "The game finishing like that was a new experience for most rugby watchers. But we knew the rules, and although it is not a great way to go out, it is part and parcel of professional sport.
"I am not going to apportion blame. I admire the guys who stepped-up and took the kicks, but unfortunately, someone was always going to miss, either for us or Leicester. You win together and you lose together and there is no finger-pointing, but I really feel for someone like Martyn Williams who has put in so much work to take this region forward.
"For 60 minutes Leicester were the better team - we couldn't produce any quick ball - but at 26-26 the momentum was with us before it went to dreaded kicks at the end.
"I really wish it hadn't been Martyn (Williams) who missed, because no-one else has given more to this jersey over the years than him. He was in tears in the dressing room, and were so were a lot of the boys after losing like that after working their socks off.
"I guess now we know how the footballers feel after those penalty shoot-outs. It's hard to describe how disappointed we all are. It's not a great win, but it's a terrible way to lose, and coming so close is no consolation."
Today's game is believed to be the first time in major northern or southern hemisphere rugby that a top-flight knock-out game has been decided on penalties.
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