Match-saving tackle denies Highlanders

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 26/05/2014
Sky Sport

Israel Dagg's try saving tackle in the final minute gave the Crusaders a valuable away win over the Highlanders.

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ALL BLACK: Israel Dagg produced a wonder tackle to save the Crusaders at the death against the Highlanders.

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Don't expect Israel Dagg to give a detailed account of his brilliant tackle on Patrick Osborne.

Even the Crusaders fullback, who prevented Osborne scoring the match-winner in Saturday night's thriller, struggled to comprehend how he managed to execute the defensive hit which ensured his side beat the Highlanders 32-30 in Dunedin.

''I don't know, it all happened so quick,'' Dagg shrugged. ''I had to mark the guy [Phil Burleigh] inside him as well. I just sprinted and gave it my all.

''It was touch and go but I was glad it went our way.''

A monumental defensive effort, in which the Crusaders stoically defended their line for several minutes, finally resulted in the ball being flung wide and put Dagg in the unenviable position of having to shadow Burleigh and Osborne.

It was the sort of nightmare situation that all fullbacks dread but Dagg held his line for long enough to force Hayden Parker to toss a skip pass over Burleigh's head, allowing the Crusaders No 15 to concentrate on catching Osborne and bundling the left wing towards the corner flag.

Referee Glen Jackson called for TMO Vinny Munro to decide if a try had been scored and he ruled the ball had struck the touchline.

Dagg, like the 21,305 supporters inside the stadium, had to watch the replays to determine whether Osborne had scored.

''I was looking at the big screen and yelling in Jacko's [Glen Jackson] ear. Both teams were very hungry and I'm very grateful we got that win in the end.

''This game is not very good for the heart, I was very nervous. I'm just so happy to get the win and keep our season alive.''

In the first half Osborne had got the better of Dagg when he roared through his tackle to score the Highlanders' second try and put them ahead 10-7.

After the match Osborne suggested to Dagg he was cruel to deny him a double.

''As we were shaking hands he just said 'you should have let me get it','' Dagg said. ''I just said I already let you get one, so I had to save one.''

Afterwards coach Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph questioned whether the ball had brushed the tryline first, while a relieved Todd Blackadder was just grateful Munro disallowed it.

''You don't know - you just don't know,'' said Blackadder when asked if the decision would go the Crusaders way.

''There's been some TMO calls that have been correct and there's been some ones that have been dubious. Hey, it's their call at the end of the day.''

Earlier Dagg had set-up Nemani Nadolo's try by unleashing an overhead hook pass and worked diligently in organising the back three and rushing forward for high kicks.

The All Blacks fullbacks also knows it won't be long before explosive Highlanders centre Malakai Fekitoa plays at test level.

''That Fekitoa is a hell of a player and big ups to him, he played extremely well. He doesn't concede in the tackle so you have to get him to the ground - he's got the biggest legs in the world and just pumps them, so you have to really fight to get him to the ground.''

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