Super 12 2004, round 2
Crusaders vs Blues
Jade Stadium, at Lancaster Park, Christchurch
27th Feb, 2004 - 7:30pm
Referee: Paddy Obrien
Half-time: Crusaders 24-12
Full-time: Blues 38-29
I can't be bothered writing a full match report (it's already sunday night and I want to get this out tonight rather than wait a week like SG did!) but here are some thoughts on the game of the round. (See the NZoom match report if you want some more details on the actual game!)
Rugby is always best when the game has something riding on it and this game was the first of the 2004 Super 12 season that I believe deserved that weight of expectation. Let's just run through the reasons we had to expect a great game:
1) It was a rematch of the 2003 Super 12 final
2) Both teams had lost their first round games, although it sounds like the Blues played well last week whereas the Crusaders uncharacteristically didn't turn up
3) These two sides made up the bulk the 2004 RWC All Black Squad
4) With Auckland and Blues coming back to power in the last couple of season the Canterbury vs Auckland rivalry is THE rivalry in NZ rugby
How I wish there were only 4 reasons on my list.
Maybe then I would be raving on about a great Crusaders victory, but unfortunately the fijian missile that wears the number 11 jersey for the Blues had other ideas. 3 of them to be in fact, worth 5 points each on the score board but oh so many more points on the oh-shit-he's-got-the-ball-again meter that all opposing wingers (and fans) pay more attention too than anything else once they have been CauCau'd.
The first half went very well though, and we were even happy enough to conceed the first try to the freaky fijian, especially when the Crusaders went into the half-time break with a healthy 24-12 lead (amazing how generous you can be when you team is comfortably ahead eh?)
However after the two tries he scored early in the second half, that tipped the game back to the Blues, I would like to request that the IRB have him tested for bionic implants or something, either that of force the Blues to transfer him to the Crusaders and we'll drop the protest.
If they find the idea of transferring Rupeni to the Suva of the south a little unfair then just send us bench-warmer Joe Rockstar as a consolation, you obviously don't need both of them. We'll give you a backup No 10 if you like, hell you could even have Mehrts, since he's not much use to us if Robbie won't let him off the bench!
Enough about Rupeni though. For my money the game satisfied on all counts and if I wasn't a Crusaders fan I would have sat back at the end of the game and said "damn, what a great game of rugby that was".
Unfortunately I'm a Crusaders fan, so instead I say "bugger!"
However, despite the loss there was a lot to like about the way the Crusaders played.
1)Big Ruby Thorne showed up on attack more than once, including finishing off a nice try with a very good pickup and drive over.
2) Dan Carter had another good game and for my money is the only one of the 3 inside-back options that should unquestionably be starting. Robbie, if you aren't going to start Mehrts at 10 then start Carter there and move Aaron Mauger back to 12 where seems far more comfortable.
3) Justin Marshall and Richie Mccaw are still the best guys in the country at their respective positions. The fire and passion that they both showed was a pleasure to behold and it rubbed off on the whole team who really played with a lot more heart than they did last week.
4) The young Auckland winger who started for the Crusaders (Koonwaiyou) has got some serious wheels! Give him another go I reckon.
It wasn't all good obviously but given they played pretty well on the whole (but were just outplayed in the end by a fijian robot and a cocky-wanker with a ginger mo-hawk) I wouldn't be looking for wholesale changes next week against the Red Queens but I would like to see this:
1) As I said above, either start Merhtens or move Carter into 10 and A Mauger into 12. Then if/when Mehrts comes on slide them out a slot and drop Mauger or whoever is in 13.
2) Nathan Mauger is in a serious funk. Bench him and either start the man with the telly-tubby surname, Casey Laulala, at 13 or move Ralph in there and start Vuni and Kooni together on the wings.
3) Sam Broomhall had a poor game on Friday and from what I read wasn't too flash last week either. Give 2003 fantasy NPC player of the year Mose Tuialili the start at 8.
4) Don't let Ben Blair kick the ball in general play unless he is inside his 22 and kicking for touch. Cross field attacking kicks like the one he attempted late on Friday (and fortunately Rupeni dropped) are just stupid. Hell he should play for Scotland if that's all he can come up with!
Follow those suggestions and the Reds will be struggling to walk for a week after the (Matt) Rogering they will receive at the hands of the (not currently so) mighty Crusaders!