Just to really make this a night to remember we teamed up with some Otago friends to watch the game. We all met them at a pub before the game and everything was going really smoothly, we even got to the ground an hour before kick-off.
Well smoothly except for me having forgotten my ticket, Doh! Nothing a quick trip back home couldn't fix though - and I mean quick, it was only a 12 minute round trip, only because all the cops were already at the park!!
We -remet up with the others and set up camp on the terraces in the North-West corner of the field, just behind the goal line.
Not the position that I would have chosen personally, I mean what was the chance of more than half the action happening down this end? Little did I know!
Just to complicate things I had this digital camera of JC's to have a go with. Just a few tips for the sports photographer virgin: You are not holding the camera nearly as still as you need to, that's why those professional photographers are using those mono-pods!
(You can check out the photos that are ok at the bottom of the report, once we get them sorted out!!!)
What an atmosphere, there seems to be more blue and gold around me than Red and Black, Then the Crusader Knights come on, which gets the R&B flags going.
My Otago friend isn't saying anything about that "dull slow music that you call a Crusaders theme" anymore!
Then the game starts and the Crusaders show that they are here to do it to the Highlanders.
And just as bloody well, was all I could think. I had been nervous about this game all week. It was bad enough that we were going to face our toughest challenge since we cast aside the Blues. To support the game in company of Otago friends... well there was going to be tears before bed-time, and someone was going to get to look just a little stupid - I was real keen to practise being a good winner!
But what a first half, I started to feel bad about feeling so good. But not for too long!
Ralph's try was a classic, and I commented to someone that we are lucky to have friends from Auckland. Then Normy pinned his ears back, and made it two. Hey we were down the good end after all!
You could see the look of determination on Normy's face, he was just looking for a brick wall to bust through, nothing was going to stop him getting that try.
And before you could say - hey haven't you missed out a few penalties and a drop kick from the "No! I am the number one 1st five! club" - Vunibaka raced past Goldie and Ellis to score in the corner. Hope that wasn't a speed camera area!
Is Ellis getting any slower? Do you think?!
With Ron Cribb driving over for the bonus point in the 37th minute (yeah sure, I was looking at my watch!) I was feeling real good and felt that I could make it through the half time entertainment in good spirit.
I had noticed that most of the people in mufty around me had slowly got more quiet as the game had developed, and I made a mental note to not make too many snide comments about the Highlanders. Thankfully the group of students just down to the right of me were making enough cringe making comments, that I was being painted the "good sport of the year".
Second half, things start to look a bit ominous, well as ominous as it can when its looking like you are on the right end of a hiding. Really, Justin Marshall could have started passing slowly and Merhts missing touch kicks and I wouldn't have been too worried!
No those Highlanders were up to something and it had "come back" written all over it. Paul Miller's cough-up was so clear from were we were, I cringed. Couldn't really tell about the Miller held up, but hey if it wasn't a try, then I'm willing to go with that. Two calls on the Video Refs in 10 minutes is sure a good way to slow things up.
Paul Miller must have been just a little annoyed. Much like Toddy looked as the team gather around him!
But that didn't seem to do much good as first Te Nana and then Middleton scored tries for the Highlanders. Things were going the Highlanders way.
The Crusaders seemed to pick it up a bit after that and it was starting too look real good again until those darn Highlanders ran from behind their line for Tipoki to score what must be the best team try of the season. Well maybe it wasn't as good as the McDonald try against the Queens, those two long passes of Cribbs are the stuff of legend, but it was damn good!
Into injury time, and we had a yellow card sin bin for both sides. Bit of a bugger really, but that didn't seem to bother the Highlanders who scored a final try through Alatini to earn 2 bonus points. These guys must be on some kind of record for earning maximum bonus points in every game. In fact I was surprised when the annoucer said that the win had put us onto the top of the Super 12 table, I would have thought that with all their bonus points the Highlanders would have had still been even with us.
Enough to say that the rest of the evening was enjoyed in reasonable spirit, with a nice Kilkenny at a little known WannaBe Irish bar. One thing I can tell you, is that it wasn't the Rugby crowd that pack the place out, it was the 19 year olds!
(Photos still pending, Jules is slacking off as usual...)