So there we where in a pub in Hanmer Springs watching the BIG game, loyalties in the place split 70-30 to Canty's favour. There is something special about these clashes...real local derby stuff. Provincial rivalry at its best. Its not like the Auckland/Canterbury thing where animosity rules the day. This is more good natured as both provinces have a certain amount of respect for each other.
What a start the Cantabs had! I have never seen a better half of rugby against a quality side by a Canterbury team. Remember Otago has the basis of the All Black forward pack! A totally awesome performance which must have sent a chill down the spine of the other teams in the comp.
Ron Cribb again showed why he will probably be the All Black No.8 this season. How could a selector not pick him? Taine Randall has looked decidely ordinary as an All Black No.8 (even if his Otago form has been good in that position). Cribb has been the standout player by far this season. He's quick, he's got great handling skills, his defense is intimidating and he's even got a kicking game!!! (What a try that was!).
Another Crusader standout was Mehrts. His control of the game was outstanding. Really showed the major difference between his game and Tony Brown's. "Downtown" Brown is a talented but very inconsistent player. Blows hot and cold. The same critism could be levelled at Mighty Mehrts, but Andrew tends to either have a woeful game or be brilliant. Doesn't have those form fluctuations DURING a game.
Caleb Ralph and that perennial crowd favourite Norm Berryman where outstanding. Skillful attacking flair! Great stuff!
The whole Canterbury forward pack was awesome actually. The word "pack" really does apply to them. Fantastic effort.
Was the second half a case of Canterbury letting their foots off the Otago throats? It happens a lot when a team is so far ahead at halftime. Or was it the fact Otago is a very good team? Probably a bit of both really. This Otago team is a very good team. These are the best two teams in the competition. The only team that appears able to match them is the very impressive Brumbies, what a match it will be when they get a crack at each other!
Rua Tipoki is a very impressive player. Light on his feet and pretty tough! North Harbour should have a good NPC this year with the likes of Flavell, Cribb and Tipoki. Brown had a better second half & the de facto All Black forwards finally got some possession going forward against a strong defensive unit.
One word of caution here. The Otago forward pack should be dominating everyone shouldn't it? I mean it is the All Black forward pack more-or-less. They should be the ones always on the front foot, being intimidating etc etc. But are they? They seem to lack leadership. That "something" that provides fore in the bellies. The sort of fire the Cantabs had in the first half. The missing ingredient? Toddy maybe?
A concern for the Crusaders is the injury to Norm Maxwell. He looked a bit dodgy coming off. Hope he is OK.
You've gotta love the southern derby!!! Fantastic passion!!!
Toddy for All Black captain!
Here's my All Black 15 at the moment....
5. Blackadder (c)