In a stirring performance in front of a packed Jade Stadium, the Crusaders continued their winning streak against their bogey province Auckland. This brings the winning streak in both Super 12 and NPC to 8. Would love to see some all-time Canterbury v's Auckland stats. The Aucks would still have a bit of a lead but I think we're catching 'em fast!
It was my first good look at our jersey colours & I really do dislike them! Just not the right mix of Canterbury colours at all. Way too much black. If I was an Auck I'd be kicking up a stink about your jersey as well. Worst footie jersey I've ever seen. Unfortunately, unlike Jules who is a right suck-face at work who managed to get free tickets to the game courtesy of Telescum (Telecom to the uninitiated), I had to work so couldn't get down to the hallowed turf to watch the mighty red'n'blacks in person. Fortunately the VCR worked so got to watch the game afterwards anyway.
It was quite sad to see the Canterbury Draught stand (No.4 stand for the old-timers) no longer there. Bulldozed for an open air 8000 seat stand to be built before the clash against the Boks in Christchurch later on the year. Progress is good, but having spent a few long hours in that stand as a youngster watching the likes of Richard Hadlee bowl, Rod Latham & Paul McEwan spank bowlers around the park, the legendary Stewie Roberts steaming in to bowl another slinged fast ball, and numerous other great Canterbury cricketers showing off their skills...it sorta makes ya kinda emotional! Still, once the Jade Stadium redevelopment is finished the city will have a modern 36,000 full seating capacity stadium which will ensure Rugby (& hopefully still) Cricket tests in the province.
Back to the game!
Obviously the 2 stand out players for the Crusaders had to be Caleb Ralph and Ron Cribb. I wonder how long it'll take Cribb to get injected with red'n'black pride & wanna stay in the city? He's got everything that Surridge had & more. It looks like he enjoys the winning environment as well, as opposed to the rather negative vibe you get from North Harbour rugby with their losing mentality. He breaks the advantage line nearly everytime he has the ball and is strong on defensive. The perfect player for the Crusader tactics. It also makes you wonder why on earth the Blues didn't want him!!!!???? Bizarre!!! With Slade McFarland not wanted either (surely he's better than that Kevin Mill..Mesas...that fella with the long Samoan name who can't throw straight in the lineout) there are 2 players who would have made a huge difference to the Blues performance.
They still would have lost the game, but at least it would have been closer! I guess for some unknown reason Gordon Hunter & co thought that Xavier Rush could actually play rugby!!?? Ha Ha....did Xavier actually play? Can't remember seeing him....... ; - )
Caleb Ralph is proving what an all-round brilliant back he is. After starring for the NZ sevens team, he's got pace, strength, vision...everything you need. He was bought into the All Black environment WAY too early, but now with a few more seasons under his belt is really showing his skills. I personally would like to see him in the centre position at some stage. Although getting Berryman out of a number 13 jersey in the Crusaders will be a tough job.
The whole Canterbury pack operated well. Strong up front again (as always). Toddy Blackadder again outplaying his opposite in Robin Brooke. Brooke should gracefully exit the game right now. He's about 2-3 years past his used-by-date. One of the most over-rated players around. Toddy for AB captaincy! Scott Robertson was another to have a stormer! For the Blues Troy Flavell was the standout. The boy may lack footie brains sometimes but he can be powerhouse.
With the backs, Mehrts controlled proceedings superbly. His intelligent kicking game & vision when setting off his outsides kept the Cantabs going forward. He's still missing far too many touches with his line kicking though. Instead of always going for distance he's gotta learn to play the percentages a little better. Oreni Ai'i did not have a flash game at all. People say Mehrts can't tackle but Ai'i is so bad I could imagine Mehrts crashing thru him to make a break! Despite his precocious attacking skills, his unpredictable erratic play is more of a hindrance than an asset to the Blues game. I'm sure if Carlos gets himself fit he'll push Ai'i aside & regain his spot at No.10.
Justin Marshall actually didn't have a bad game, even if his passing is still laboured. Apart from bombing a certain try, Berryman remains a crowd favourite!! Great value all round!
In a funny sort of way, despite the convincing win, I'm sure the Cantabs where disappointed they didn't score another 2-3 tries against the Blues. The final scoreline was extremely flattering to the Northerners. Apart from that, its always great to beat the old enemy!