Waratahs vs Crusaders
Trafalger Park, Nelson, New Zealand
7:35pm (NZDT), 4th March, 2011
Halftime: CRU 26 - WAR 13
Fulltime: CRU 33 - BLU 18
The terrible quake events that we have been suffering in Christchurch in the last 6 months, and particularly the destructive 6.3 quake from the 22nd of Feb, have struck a crippling blow to the people of Christchurch and indeed kiwis everywhere.
Last weekend's match against the Hurricanes was cancelled due to the recent quake and the damage done to AMI Stadium and the rest of the city mean it will be quite sometime before the Crusaders play back in Christchurch. This home match was moved to Trafalgar Park in Nelson at short notice and a huge local crowd turned up to support the home team.
Today had been a national "Red and Black" day and even Blues supporters had been seen wearing Crusaders colours, a twilight zone moment in itself, so it felt like the whole country was behind the Crusaders to do the business and take our minds off real world challenges for 80 minutes or so.
The Crusaders already had planned to wear the West Coast rugby colours (red and white hoops) in respect to the Pike River mining disaster late last year, so the emotion surrounding the event was already huge and you could see it in the players eyes as they had a moment of silence and prepared for the kickoff.
This was also the first Super Rugby appearance for Sonny Bill Williams, or SBW and he is known, and after his impressive performances late last year for Canterbury and the ABs everyone was keen to see how he would go for the Crusaders.
In the first 10 minutes he didn't go too well. He was obviously a bit too excited and his first few passes were misdirected and poor and he was obviously trying too hard to live up to his "that was another miracle SBW offload" reputation.
As a result the Waratahs got on the board first, and really looked like they might take control, but their stand in first-five Halangahu had his boots on the wrong feet and couldn't kick either of his early conversion chances or a penalty shot to take advantage of their ascendancy.
On the other side Dan Carter was slotting everything on offer. The Tahs had two good tries, but with no kicks going over Carter kept the Crusaders in touch with 3 penalties.
Then it was time for the Robbie Fruean Show. First he picked up an intercept try with the Waratahs hot on attack and then the Crusaders started to warm to their task, and Fruean finished off a great period of attack with a lovely feed from SBW to go over in the corner.
Carter did his job, and before you know it it was half time and the Crusaders had a healthy 26-13 lead.
The Waratahs' lineout was pretty handy but they were getting smashed in the scrums, a couple of times the Crusaders just pushed them off the ball for a tighthead which was great to see.
Stand out players for me were Fruean, SBW once he calmed down a bit, big bad Brad with some smashing runs with the ball, loosies George Whitelock and Matt Todd, and Mr Carter (as usual).
The Crusaders came out after the half still fizzing and quickly rattled up another great try, this time to SBW himself, on the back of some more relentless attack, with Carter putting SBW in space from about 20m out and SBW doing the rest, skipping out of one tackle and then putting on the gas to streak by 2 or 3 other would-be tacklers to score.
Carter did his job and all of a sudden it was 33-13 after about 44 minutes. Very nice!
I started to get visions of a 2011 edition of the 96-19 match, but this Waratahs team wasn't going to lie down, and Toddy quickly decided that a 20 point lead was defendable and started to empty the bench.
As is often the case a bunch of subs disrupts the flow, and the Waratahs definitely didn't plan on just bending over so the rest of the match was a lot of to and fro, with the Tahs having some good possession but not being able to do anything with it other than a 70th minute try to sub Pakalani.
Another great Crusaders win over their whipping boys from Sydney (that's 9 in a row) and a wonderful distraction for kiwi fans everywhere from the reality of post-quake recovery in Christchurch.
Great work Crusaders, as is so often the case you did us proud.