It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon at Twickenham with 35, 094 fans, mostly expats, witnessing a match that showed exactly why the World Cup trophy will probably stay in the Southern Hemisphere this year, writes Lesleigh Mudaly.
The first half saw the Sharks not playing to their full potential, but they were still able to score two tries before half-time. Willem Alberts, one of Sharks’ try scorers and the heaviest player on the field, put his size to good use and made some great tackles. Crusader’s coach Todd Blackadder was happy with the turn out, “There was a great crowd out there and it shows you that it can be done. I hope that people enjoyed Super Rugby. There was some great skills on show, and it was really nice to be part of it.”
A Crusaders side that consisted of 12 All Blacks took full advantage of the game with fast hands and agile feet, tearing through a soft Sharks’ defense. The side provided the crowd with some entertaining play in the first half, with plenty of points including four tries, including one scored by crowd favourite Dan Carter. “The first 30 minutes were fantastic. The Sharks were putting pressure on us and we were able to get some good off loads and good tries.” he said.
Crusaders’ captain Keiran Read came off at half time with a reoccurring neck twinge, with the score at 34-18 to his side. In response to this fixture Read felt, “London has really turned it on and looked after us. We just wanted to show what Super Rugby is about. For people up here who want to see Super Rugby more, that’s great! But for us, it was a one-off. It was great, there were plenty of Sharks’ supporters and Crusaders, so you can’t really ask for more. It was a once in a life time experience.”
Sharks started the second half in a far more impressive style. They upped their game and kept hold of the ball more successfully than they were able to in the first half. This showed with the Sharks’ adding two more tries to their tally. With Tendai ‘The Beast’ Mtawarira coming onto the pitch, the crowd were vocal every time he got his hands on the ball and smashed his way through the Crusaders’ defense.
An absent Richie McCaw made way for Matt Todd who proved he has the ability to up his game on the big stage, with Crusaders’ coach Blackadder beaming about the “outstanding” player. “In big occasions bit players step up and they really did today. Matt Todd showed he has the ability and he’s really taken up the challenge.”
With the final score at 44-28 to the Crusaders, it was safe to say that it was a successful day all round. Crusaders’ coach Todd Blackadder shared that, “it wasn’t an easy decision to come here, it was a big call. I’m proud of the way we adjusted and I have to thank the Sharks for agreeing to do this match. The weather was great and it didn’t really feel like we were in the northern hemisphere. It was a great day for rugby.”
With all eyes on Sonny Bill Williams, including Graham Henry, he put on an enthralling performance, and provided support for Dan Carter. Carter thinks Williams is “really leading the way and playing some fantastic rugby. It makes my job alot easier having him there.” Coach Todd Blackadder has the same opinion, adding; “He’s attacking the ball and supporting the break down. He’s just really adapted to the game of rugby, and a real threat. He’s got the potential to be anything he wants to be in this game. He’s only had 5 games of super rugby and you wonder what he’s really made of.”
With ticket sales alone £175 470 was raised to add to the Red Cross relief fund that aims to raise £1 000 000 for victims of the Christchurch earthquake.
Crusaders (34) 44: Tries: Maitland 2, Carter, Dagg, Guildford Pens: Carter 3 Cons: Carter 4, Berquist
Sharks (18) 28: Tries: Alberts, Potigieter, Hargreaves, Ndungane Pens: Potigieter 2 Cons: Potigieter