Sunday 17th March, 2002
Conditions: Hot, Damn Hot (which is nice if you're with a lady...etc, etc)
Referee: Tapa Henning
Crusaders 34 - Reds 27
The Aussie commentators summed this one up, "it was a hard fought but deserved win to the Crusaders." The game was a classic between these two old rivals, the lead changed 8 times and both teams had a chance to stretch the lead out but the other team struck back and tightened it up again, the 7 final point margin was a wide as it got all game.
I made some play by play type notes during the game so here they are:
7 min: Crusaders make most of the play in the early going but several promising raids are blown with poor handling in the tackle and breakdown. Reds infringe on half way though and Mehrts has a crack at a 53m penalty, but pushes it wide.
12 min: Reds regather the kickoff and make an attacking raid of their own, this time the Crusaders infringe and Flatley kicks an easy penalty. 3-0 Reds
17 min: After the kick off play moves back into Reds territory. From
an attacking scrum on the Reds 22 the Crusaders move it wide, Macdonald and
Maddock link up on the right wing, and Maddock almost escapes Wendell's grasp
but is pulled up about 2m short, the Reds defence can't recover in time though
and Chris Jack swoops in and picks up the loose ball and dives over for the
try. Mehrts misses the conversion. 5-3 Crusaders
(Commentators mention that Crusaders have turned over possession 8 times, to the Reds 2)
23 min: Again the team kicking off reclaims the ball and the Reds surge back into Crusader territory. The Crusaders secure a defensive scrum and Justin Marshall makes a great break but runs away from his support and gets pinged for holding onto the ball, Flatleyslots the resulting penalty. 6-5 Crusaders
24 min: Good kickoff ball for the Crusaders results in another good attack from the Crusaders, the Reds are caught offside and Mehrts slots the resulting penalty to take the lead back. 8-6 Crusaders
32 min: Flately misses a penalty. Ben Tune runs back the resulting drop out but can't get past his opposite number Ralph, who gets straight back up and recovers the ball and starts a counter-attack of his own, so far the Crusaders back three have looked at least as good as the much vaunted Reds super-star outside backs.
34 min: Crusaders back into the Reds half, and Mehrts slots a drop goal to make it 11-6 Crusaders
35 min: For once Tapa lets a scrum go without forcing a reset and the Crusaders scrum smashes the Reds. The scrum twists and buckles so much that McCaw just has to dis-engage as the ball comes out and fall on top of the Reds half-back Cordingly. Awesome! (Not a scoring play I know, but well worth noting!)
40 min: Play back in the Crusaders half, and Flatley slots a late penalty on half-time. Half-time score: 11-9 Crusaders
Comment of the game was a cracker about Marshalls' new hairdo. ""He looks like he has been using Phil Waugh's hairdresser!" A bit harsh I thought given Waugh's shocking 'do from last season was an anti-hairdo, the result of bet that meant he couldn't cut it for the entire season. Justin's hair is completely the opposite, suffering from an unnatural amount of attention!
Anyway, back to the game.
42 min: Things start with a hiss an a roar, as big Wendell outflanks 3 or 4 Crusaders forwards as he returns a deep kick and feeds to Steve Kefu who sets up Matt Cockbain for a great try under the sticks. Flatley converts and the Reds are back in front. 16-11 Reds
50 min: The Crusaders hit right back though. Maddock makes a huge scything run, including gassing past Tune and Sailor, which sets up a brilliant sweeping attack for the Crusaders that results in a try to Caleb Ralph. Reuben Thorne plays some great support in the movement, including setting up the try for Ralph. It's Ralph's 50th Super 12 match, and the try brings up his 100th point in Super 12 rugby. Mehrts misses the tough kick and scores are tied at 16-16
54 min: The Crusaders strike again, as a turn over by the Reds in the Crusaders 22 results in a great 90m counter-attack try in the corner to Leon MacDonald. This time Mehrts slots the side-line conversion and the Crusaders are in front again. 23-16 Crusaders
58 min: A crazy situation where a high kick is contested in the air and the Crusaders knock it back (although there is a hint of a Reds player knocking it on), someone regathers (Gibson I think) and spins the pass out wide into the Crusaders backline, but Totai Kefu, who has continued the follow through after the kick, intercepts the pass and canters 40 metres into the corner for a try. Nice work if you can get it I guess. Flatley, lord of the dance, misses the conversion. 23-21 Crusaders
60 min: Dave Hewett gives away a silly "lazy running" penalty by getting in the way while retreating back on side at a ruck, this time Mr Flatley nails it, and the Reds are back in front. 24-23 Reds
64 min: The Reds lead is short lived though, Cockbain gets pinged for trying to slow down the release and Mehrts slots the penalty. 26-24 Crusaders
The sub bench gets some use as both sides make some changes, including two wingers as Tune is off for Junior Pelasasa and Maddock goes off for Gibson.
68 min: Gibson makes a big break, and the Reds are penalised at the breakdown as Cockbain trys to slow down the Crusaders ruck ball again, he gets a warning, and Mehrts slots the goal. 29-24 Crusaders
71 min: It's not over yet though, the Reds claim another Crusaders kickoff (I think almost every kickoff has been reclaimed by the kicking team!) and launch another attacking raid, they look dangerous and force the Crusaders to infringe. When they can't actually get any advantage they take the penalty. Flatley nails it, and sets up a nailbiting last 10 minutes. 29-27 Crusaders
79 min: Play goes back and forwards as both teams struggle to get the upper hand in the field position stakes, the Reds are on attack but the Crusaders defence forces a mistake and Aaron Mauger sees that Latham and Pelasasa are both up in the line and bangs a big kick down field. Caleb Ralph leads the chase, picks up the ball and dives in in the corner. This is the 4th try for the Crusaders and earns them a bonus point. Mehrts misses the conversion, which would have denied the Reds of the 7 point bonus. Crusaders up 34-27
80 min: The Crusaders claim the kickoff, control possession for a phase or two, and then kick it into touch. Before the Reds can throw it in, the hooter goes and Tapa blows the whistle for full time. Crusaders win, 34-27
So that was the ball game, a great away win for the Crusaders, and yet another step up both teams. I imagine the Reds would be pretty happy with their performance too, although obviously gutted to lose a tight one.
Closing comment went to Phil Kearns, who had a bit of a patchy day behind the mic. At one point he obviously got Gibson confused with Mayerholfer (as he commented that he had returned from France for this season) and then in his post-match interview with Thorn he wished him good luck for next week. Good one Phil, the Crusaders have a bye next week. :)