Drummond fulfils boyhood wish
When new Crusader Mitchell Drummond was just five or six, he was the Crusader for a Day, the kid who got to run out the ball, hang with the team and make believe. Afterward he told his father that one day, he wanted to be a real Crusader.
That day arrived in Motueka yesterday when the former Nelson College first XV captain ran out on to Sports Park for his first Super Rugby game as the substitute halfback with five minutes left in the match.
"It was wicked, something I'll never forget and a dream come true but it was a long 75 minutes waiting to get out there," he said, as he celebrated the Crusaders' 28-15 win over the Highlanders with family and friends in the grandstand.
His father, Tasman Rugby Union vice-president Shane Drummond, was the architect of the pre-season match coming to Motueka and said it was a proud moment to see his son take the field in the Crusaders red-and-black.
Mr Drummond said he was "disappointed" with the official crowd number of 5500 but said it was not for lack of effort.
"George Sturgeon and his team did a great job putting this together."
Mr Sturgeon of Motueka's Good Sports Trust said "it was shame about the weather but hey, that's rugby. You can't complain. For the day we had and the crowd we got, it was a good day. The people that made the effort to come out got a great game of rugby. And it was good to see little Drummy get a run."
Match operations manager Jo MacLean from the Tasman Rugby Union said the day's rain meant gate sales were very low. The rain began around 11am, cleared briefly for the game's 5.30pm kickoff but was heavy by the game's end.
The uncovered 3744 capacity "silver" grandstand was a sea of umbrellas and rain jackets, with several people transforming black rubbish bags into rain slickers. The atmosphere was subdued at first but the crowd burst into life for the first Crusaders try, a breakaway to fullback Israel Dagg after the Highlanders bobbled the ball on attack near the 22.
Dressed in a smart pink poncho, retired Motueka woman Yvonne Smith was enjoying the game, her first live game of rugby ever. The league fan admitted to catching the odd game of rugby union on television but said she preferred the view from her front row seat at Sports Park.
"It's great, being so close. Here you actually hear the crunch."
Behind her was vocal Highlanders fan Dan Leckie from Nelson. He grew up in Dunedin and was sporting his father's old Highlanders tie. "My dad worked at Carisbrook and I used to get front row seats to the Highlanders. They've played a good game and I think they've earned a win."
He rejected the idea the rain would help the men from Otago, saying "snow suits us better".
Up in the covered "gold" stand, Brooklyn's Wendy Cotter was thrilled to be out of the rain. She had gone to buy tickets on Wednesday, long after the covered stand had sold out, only to find that a pair of gold tickets had just been returned.
Those braving the elements were treated to a halftime interview with Richie McCaw, who was not named in the playing 23. He said he was not injured but not yet quite fit enough for Super Rugby and he expected to return to action next week.
The morning of the match he had made a surprise appearance at a Crusaders "pit-stop" outside the Riwaka Hotel, where non-playing members of the Crusaders offered motorists snacks and window washes, as well as signatures as a fundraiser for junior rugby.
Match coverage p26
The Nelson Mail