14 Apr 2024

Super Rugby Pacific: Crusaders blow it big time in a round to remember

12:14 pm on 14 April 2024
Will Harrison of the Waratahs celebrates kicking the winning field goal in golden point during the round eight Super Rugby Pacific match between NSW Waratahs and Crusaders.

Will Harrison of the Waratahs celebrates kicking the winning field goal in golden point during the round eight Super Rugby Pacific match between NSW Waratahs and Crusaders. Photo: Getty Images / Mark Kolbe

Analysis - Super Rugby Pacific needed some entertaining games on another meagre round of fixtures this weekend. Really though, the Waratahs' unbelievable 43-40 win over the Crusaders on Friday night in Sydney had enough in it to satisfy anyone on its own. Anyone except Crusaders fans, that is, who must now be wondering if their win over the Chiefs was little more than a false dawn.

This weekend was supposed to be the start of a pressure release for Rob Penney's side, with the underperforming Tahs first, followed by fixtures against the Force and Rebels. But now they're having to analyse their sixth loss of the season - and a good place to start would be to look in the mirror.

Credit to the Tahs, though. They'd already beaten the Crusaders once this year but committing to scoring as many tries as they could and not rolling over to the defending champions. In a remarkable turn of events, the lead changed hands 12 times before locking up at 40-all at the end of regulation, then the 13th was due to Will Harrison calmly slotting a dropped goal in golden point extra time.

But Harrison should never have had the chance. Three brutal brain fades from the Crusaders basically handed it to him when, in this order:

Rivez Reihana didn't seem to understand that referee Nic Berry was telling him that he just needed to wait for time to expire before converting Christian Lio-Willie's 78th minute try that put them up 38-37.

That meant the game restarted, after which Johnny McNichol flung a hand out at a pass that he was never going to catch, giving away a kickable penalty that made the score 40-all.

Then, in golden point, the Crusaders executed perhaps the worst botched lineout of all time on their own 22, giving the Tahs the ball that they ultimately set up for Harrison's moment of glory.

The action and intensity otherwise meant the game was an instant Super Rugby classic. But take away those three key moments and we'd be sitting here talking about how the Crusaders managed to ice a result rather than flush it down the toilet.

Important win for Moana, rare air for the Rebels and the Cane train rolls on

The irony is that the game beforehand featured almost exactly the same circumstance to end it, when Moana Pasifika dug deep to beat the Reds 17-14 in Whangarei. William Havili scored the winning try right before the end but knew full well if he took his time as the clock ran down the game ended then and there.

Moana Pasifika celebrate the winning try against the Reds.

Moana Pasifika celebrate the winning try against the Reds. Photo: Getty Images / Fiona Goodall

It wasn't much of a game otherwise, as the aptly named Reds had Tate McDermott and Liam Wright sent off for stupid acts in the second half. McDermott, who is captain and has led the Wallabies, should really know better than to throw a swinging arm in frustration.

That result means the Reds drop down to sixth, and the Rebels' 47-31 win over the Highlanders on Saturday night in Melbourne sees them all the way up in fourth. This was a good watch and the Rebels definitely deserved the result, but the Highlanders shouldn't be escaping any scrutiny for what's turning into a disappointing season already.

They're now 10th on the table and can't really look at any fixtures coming up as guaranteed wins.

Meanwhile, are Hurricanes fans starting to believe yet? The clinical last 15 minutes against the Chiefs that resulted in a 36-23 win was more evidence that Clark Laidlaw's side has what it takes to lift a trophy this season, but there was even more detail in the win that could have implications later on.

TJ Perenara was outstanding at halfback and has to be part of the All Black conversation, while outside him Brett Cameron played the metronomic foil to Damian McKenzie's off the cuff brilliance and pressed his claim as well. Brayden Iose did everything right as well, so it's going to be an interesting period for Scott Robertson to ruminate on exactly what his first selections will be.