This game was a new experience for me. I took the little ones along for their first taste of Super12 rugby and make sure they are being suitably brainwashed into one-eyed Cantabrian rugby supporters.
So far, so good. They know what colour jersies the best players wear and when to wave their little swords about. Of course, by far the best part of the night for them was when the knights charge three times round the ground firing up the crowd. Awesome.
Unfortunately, answering a constant stream of "are we winning?" and "when are the horses coming out again, Dad?" questions means I didn't get to pay quite as much attention to the game as I would have liked.
However, we did have great seats right in front of the main stand and here's what I did see:
The Crusaders defence has improved out of sight since the first few rounds. Carter makes a shit load of tackles in the midfield and in combination with Mauger they don't let too much traffic through without inflicting some damage requiring panelbeating.
McCaw is consistently unbelievable. How he gets to the end of nearly every game without being seriously injured is a bloody miracle.
Two new faces in headgear impressed me hugely. Tone Kopelani the hooker and Mose Tuiali'i the number eight were outstanding with the ball in hand. Mose in particular had some great runs. Apparently he once played in the backline which explains his tidy sidestep and vision for offloading to men in space.
Good old Mose. What the hell were the Blues thinking floating him in the draft??!! Sorry Sam Broomhall, but I can't see you getting many starts ahead of this guy.
It's a shame Tuiali'i didn't get a try. He came desperately close, only to be held up over the line. Given the huge game he put in, it would have been a just reward.
The game was close right through and the final score flattered to deceive really. Being a one-eyed supporter my view is that the Crusaders were the best team out there and rightly deserved the win.
The reality was that with 5 minutes to go, the Highlanders were only a converted try short of equalizing. So it was edge of the seat stuff.
I couldn't help thinking the Highlanders didn't get enough ball to their Fijian flyers. Those boys have some gas as Tanivula showed when he blasted through our backline and past Blair with a huge inside sidestep to score early on.
What about Mehrts you ask? Well he isn't quite back to his best. Maybe he never will be. But he combined well with Mauger and Carter on attack, and though people harp on about his crap defence, he is clearly trying hard to make the tackles. Going in too high seems to be a problem with his technique.
Who else played well? Marshall had a great game. Mauger is definitely looking more comfortable at Centre and Ben Blair made a number of good breaks too. So, finally, the Crusaders backline is looking a little more settled with some good options on the bench if required.
As for the Highlanders? Well, as they say. Thanks for comin'! See yas next time. :)