Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Red 'n Black Dynasty

Gotta do this quick! Crusaders beat the Waratahs 20-12 to win the 2008 Super 14 championship, to cement their place as one of the worlds' great sporting dynasties. The final was exhilirating, played at breathless pace and test match intensity, the most compelling rugby game of the year (so far). This one had it all. Massive defense; controversial referee decisions (I've looked high-and-low for footage of Brad Thorn's phantom punch on Dan Vickerman, sixty yards and five phases prior to Wyatt Crockett's disallowed try, and still can't see anything more than a vicious Vickerman shoulder barge on Thorn's prone back and a little retaliatory handbag swing); stunning twists and turns; and the right team won.

A poke in the ribs caused Brad Thorn to uncharacteristically erupt and belt Dan Vickerman before he was yellow-carded in the Super 14 final on Saturday night.

Thorn's ill-discipline in the second half cost the Crusaders a crucial try to loosehead prop Wyatt Crockett, with referee Mark Lawrence disallowing the five-pointer before marching 55m back to award the Waratahs a penalty and give Thorn his marching orders.

"I sort of felt I got hit late off the ball in a ruck, in the ribcage. I just had a `moment' and gave him a bit of a whack," Thorn said. "He had headgear on, though," he mused before adding: "But these days you can't do that."

Crockett's try would have put the Crusaders ahead 19-12.

Instead, the Waratahs kicked for the corner and set up an attacking lineout inside the home side's quarter.

But the Waratahs were unable to score when the Crusaders were down to 14 men.

To see Thorn retaliate was unusual, and he had plenty of time to reflect on his actions during his time in the cooler.

"Basically I sat there for 10 minutes thinking `what the heck am I doing there?' In the big matches it is all about discipline and focus. It's not my style.

"It just seemed a bit surreal."


More: Sport Africa's Super 14 Player of the Tournament:

Player of the tournament: This was tough, as many players put their hands up — we think of Ryan Kankowski, Andries Bekker, Phil Waugh, Richie McCaw... in fact all the usual suspects. However, our award goes to the man who hops between Rugby Union and Rugby League with seamless ease — Brad Thorn.

So, the end of an era...? Coach Robbie Deans has retired from the Crusaders to move on to the Wallabies; the only member to be a part of all seven of the Crusaders championships, Reuben Thorne, also got onto the field for a few minutes to extend his record-breaking Super rugby record, played his last match for the Christchurch faithful and moves to Japan.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention another retirement - that being the stalwart Wasps and England international Lawrence Dallaglio, who hangs up his boots following his teams' 26-16 win over Leicester to claim the Guiness Premiership title at Twickers on Saturday. (Brit reports are post-selling the match as having been "absorbing," which I guess it kinda was -- Andy Goode, find your kicking boots already -- but certainly not the enthralling Super 14 final played only a few hours earlier.) Larry Dallaglio retires on top, and IMHO goes down as the Greatest English Rugby Player Evah.


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