I got a taste of things to come in the new Super 14 tonight, after watching a pre-season match between the Waratahs and last year’s Super 12 champions, the Crusaders. The match was promoted as the Rotomahana Challenge, and will be a feature game between the Waratahs and Crusaders for the next five seasons.
Although it was a pre-season match, both sides fielded full strength teams. Both sides played in last year’s grand finals, so it was going to be an interesting match.
The Crusaders were the first on to the field for their warm up session before the kickoff, and they were the first on to the field for the kick off. It was as if they were keen to get on with the job. Daniel Carter was the first to put some points on the board with a penalty kick for the Away team. This was soon followed by a break away try by man of the match Mose Tuiali’i, after scooping up a spilled line out ball, and dashing 20m to score the first try of the match.
Peter Hewat scored a penalty goal moments later, but then the Crusaders stepped up a gear and rushed in three more tries before the end of the first half. Ross Filipo scored a try down the short side, Aaron Mauger scored a try from a six on two play, and Chris Jack snatched an intercept to send Leon MacDonald for the final try of the first half.
As a Waratahs supporter I felt like leaving the game, as they didn’t seem to be able to do anything right in the first half. Credit to the Crusaders, as they were able to hold their defensive lines, and their back line worked well to smother the Tahs most lethal pairing of Sailor and Tuqiri on the wings. However watching the under 8s play during the half time break cooled some nerves before the second half started.
The second half started with the Waratahs trailing 27-3, but they weren’t down and out just yet. Ewan McKenzie threw on some impact players, and the game turned around completely. Within moments of making it on to the field Wyclif Palu made a break from a lineout, then passing to Rocky Elsom for a try in the corner. Peter Hewat made the conversion, and the Waratahs were looking like they had a chance of winning the game with a couple more trys from Shaun Berne and Wyclif Palu.
The Waratahs fought back to within a field goal from victory. The score was 32-30. With 5 mins to go the Waratahs had a brain explosion, make that two brain explosions where they attempted two drop goals to try and snatch the lead. I didn’t see the logic behind this strategy. They had time left to settle themselves and try to milk a penalty closer to the try line. In fact the Crusaders were down a man for the last 10 minutes of the match, so they could have gone for the try. Instead the two drop goals wasted precious time, and the Crusaders managed to send play back into the Waratahs half for the dying seconds.
The final score looked more respectable than the score at half time. But overall it was an exciting game to watch, especially when Tuqiri and Big Dell had ball in hand!