Referee: Andrew Cole (Australia)
I was saying to my wife that I was disappointed not to be watching this game at Cone Stadium - as I felt that it could be a bad one to watch alone.
More specifically the Crusaders could play badly and then I would only have the TV to discuss it with. Not that I am in any way hesitent to talk (rant, shout and curse!) to the Television, but it is not very interactive.
In a crowd of like-minded people one can find solace from the bad, the ugly and the downright stupid. And low... it came to pass that these things did happen to those Men in Red and Black in the battle of Trafalger! And I was without consolation, at least in the first half anyway!
How I would have benefitted from someone to cringe with as Robinson left a gap for Swanepal for the second time in 10 minutes. What small satisfaction I would have received as I noted that "that" was the 3rd time in 3 games that Mehrts had lobbed away a try.
At half time as I fumed inwardly, having used most of my swear words far to many times already, I studiously ignored the "highlights" and went and got myself a can of beer.
As I opened the can the 2nd half started and it seemed that over the next 10 minutes that the beer was doing the trick. The superstitious (alcoholic) part of me suggested that I better get myself another can, once that one ran out. That fact is that I didn't, so we can only wonder whether this had any bearing on the final outcome!
But enough of this, what of Mr. Cole you are asking me? Well stop shaking the monitor and let me tell you.
Mr. Cole was very good.
I think that there were only a couple of decisions that I had a problem with (don't get me started with some of the decisions of the Crusaders!) but you know I just can't remember what they were.
Are you thinking that I had forgotten the yellow carding of Norm (just call him Head-case) Maxwell?
No I didn't... actually when I saw it the first time I wasn't just thinking that he should get himself a hair cut! I thought that it was fairly bad, but we had gotten away with it. No such luck.
This penalty was the catalyst of a weird subplot of the game. Cat's kicking machine Koen (this is still an unfortunate name!) putting aside his best kicker in the competition status for a while and doing his bit to keep the Crusaders in the game. Thanks for the 10 points you missed Koen... we know you tried!
Things never got to the lows of the first half and we even had a chance to win. So I wasn't all that annoyed, even when Mauger missed the last kick.
I at least felt that I had been watching a "Canterbury" side in action, and not a rag tag bunch dressed in Red and Black who used to be great. Ah yes, a come back of true Canterbury tradition, but a come back akin to the late run of form this season, just too late to count for semi finals.
And through it all Referee Cole just kept out of the way and generally did the sort of job that gets you off the grand final refing list - not enough crap decisions to take Andrae Watson's place.
Although the way things are going, national impartiality will keep Andrae out of the final games!
There is still a chance of the Crusaders making the semi finals, apparently. But imagine the hue and cry if we did!
The Crusaders have never looked consistent enough to give any real hope to those of us who gaze fondly upon this fair province with two eyes. So what is left but pride?
This may not be enough for the Auckland Blues, but it is more than enough for a Canterbury lad!
(Ah... Caleb, Afato, Marika, that means you too!)