Scrumhalf Will Genia produced a moment of opportunistic brilliance to score a 65m try that helped the Queensland Reds to a 18-13 victory.
Scrumhalf Will Genia produced a moment of opportunistic brilliance to score a 65m try that helped the Queensland Reds to a 18-13 victory over the Canterbury Crusaders and their first Super rugby title on Saturday.
The pulsating match was a fitting finale for both sides who have overcome turmoil this season.
The Crusaders were forced to spend their entire season on the road, racking up more than 100 000km in travel following an earthquake on February 22 that destroyed Christchurch and badly damaged Lancaster Park.
Queensland also suffered a series of devastating summer floods that killed a record amount of people, and badly affected Lang Park.
That was all forgotten on Saturday, however, as a record crowd watched a tense encounter that was really only broken open by Genia, who sparked both of the Reds tries, despite being less than his usual slick self.
For the first he found a flying Digby Ioane after a poor Crusaders kick, while for the second he seized on Crusaders’ indecisiveness around the ruck to sprint 65m after the visitors had turned the ball over while on attack.
Flyhalf Quade Cooper slotted a conversion and two penalties for the Reds, while Dan Carter scored all of the Crusaders points with a try following his own deft kick that pierced a swarming Reds defensive line, a conversion and two penalties.
“We knew the Crusaders would just keep coming, they’re a quality side but I’m just lost for words,” Queensland captain James Horwill said in a televised interview.
“This team, all year people have doubted us and said we couldn’t do it. Well tonight I think we showed them we can. And we did it.”
The Reds were forced back into their own territory for much of the match as the Crusaders built phases, but then made several silly mistakes and turned the ball over far too often.
Such was the intensity of the defensive screens, it took until the 33rd minute before Queensland flyhalf Cooper opened the scoring with a penalty—their first opportunity of the match.
The Crusaders, however, marched back down field and Carter drifted across the field, kicked ahead to pierce the line, gathered and waltzed around a bewildered Cooper, whose tackling frailties have forced the Reds to hide him on defence.
Cooper managed to reduce the gap to 7-6 with his second penalty just before the break when he was tripped by lock Brad Thorn while chasing a speculative kick.
The Crusaders should have increased their lead immediately after the break when Sean Maitland was put through following some interplay between Sonny Bill Williams and Robbie Fruean, but the flying winger inexplicably dropped the ball with the line open.
Carter extended the lead after the Reds were penalised for a scrum collapse but they replied almost immediately after Andy Ellis’ poor kick was fielded by Genia, who found a charging Ioane with wide open space and only tight forwards in front of him to score a try that was converted by Cooper.
While Carter slotted his second penalty to draw the game level, the Crusaders spent the majority of the rest of the match on attack only for mistakes to again cost them.
They turned the ball over on attack to Genia, who made the visitors pay and ended their epic crusade.
“I think I said before the game it would come down to one or two opportunities and that’s the way it turned out,” Crusaders captain Richie McCaw said.
“A couple of lapses and they made us pay and that’s what finals footy is about.” - Reuters