Cruden got the call, Conrad got the try

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 09/06/2014
Aaron Cruden
PETER MEECHAM/Fairfax NZ
OUT OF SORTS: Aaron Cruden lines up a kick at goal against England at Eden Park.

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Aaron Cruden might thank Conrad Smith one day for balancing his instinctive nature with a bit of forward thinking.

When Cruden took a quick tap in the final minutes of Saturday's nail-biting 20-15 first test win over England, most people thought he'd temporarily lost his bearings.

Whichever way you spin it, Cruden took a huge gamble in not taking a shot at goal with the scores tied at 15-15 and the clock ticking towards fulltime.

It would not surprise if, during a quiet moment this week, coach Steve Hansen took his first five-eighth aside and suggested that next time he should take the three points.

"It was . . . bold," Smith said after the match when asked what he made of Cruden's audacious decision not to kick for goal.

"Yep, I was a bit surprised by it myself, but I loved it as well. They obviously saw something and I love the fact we are looking for those opportunities.

"It's something I like driving [in the team myself], for us to always be alert and it's something that can set us apart a little bit. But to actually do it in those circumstances was . . . like I say, bold."

Cruden revealed he'd had two accomplices in his cunning plan with replacements Beauden Barrett and Victor Vito yelling from out wide for the quick tap.

"I was expecting to put the ball on the kicking tee and have a shot then I got a call from the outside and saw the English defence was expecting a goal kick as well and were starting to migrate toward the posts," Cruden explained.

"I just got the call from out wide and trusted that call and it paid off for us. It was Beauden and Victor out there letting me know the space was there if we wanted to use it.

"I had a quick look up and saw the space was there. After asking the referee if we could play on, he said yes, and we went with the quick tap and we were off."

Up in the coaches' box, Hansen reckons he was calm, though stunned may have been more accurate. Ditto for England coach Stuart Lancaster, who later described Cruden as "brave".

Out on the field Smith was already thinking about how to turn the situation.

Prop Wyatt Crockett was denied by the TMO, but from the ensuing scrum Smith got the match-winner in the corner.

Interestingly it was another Smith, Ben, who provided the final pass to his centre, and it was not by accident.

"It was one of those things where I knew they were a man down and being in that position myself in a few games I know you do tend to tighten up [in defence] and get caught on the fringes a little," Conrad Smith said.

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"I saw that [had happened] and just wandered out there.

"Luckily enough the ball came that way."

In truth luck had little to do with it.

- Stuff

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