'Live with it', says gutted flanker Richie McCaw
Oh, no. Not again.
Losing a Super Rugby grand final is tough enough - to get beaten after a contentious refereeing decision in the final minutes is just torture.
Some referees adhere to an unwritten code that late penalties shouldn't decide matches but Craig Joubert, the South African who also controlled the 2011 World Cup final between Richie McCaw's All Blacks and France at Eden Park, deviated from that theory on Saturday night.
Joubert, having determined flanker McCaw didn't enter a ruck correctly in the 79th minute, gifted Bernard Foley a chance to kick his 45-metre penalty and secure the Waratahs their first title with a 33-32 win.
Later, the Crusaders were fuming. They believed Waratahs substitute hooker Tolu Latu could have just as easily been penalised by Joubert for not releasing the ball quickly enough.
"It's pretty disappointing really . . . that's what can happen and pretty gutted mate," a dejected McCaw said later.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder lobbed Joubert's decision in the "50-50" category and McCaw seemed to agree.
"But yeah, I guess that's what pressure and those sort of moments come down to - being able to back your D," McCaw added.
"And perhaps I opened the door for the ref to make a decision and whether you agree or disagree, that's the way it was and unfortunately he kicked the goal.
"I'm pretty annoyed but I can't do much about it now. It's one of those things you've just got to live with."
The defeat left Blackadder to mull whether he will ever get the chance to pop a champagne cork at a grand final after-party as a head coach.
Since replacing Robbie Deans in 2009, he has made the semifinals four times and the grand final twice.
"It was 50-50 I thought," Blackadder said in reference to the crucial penalty. "It could have gone either way . . . It comes down to those moments and whether you win the competition or not."
Had Joubert awarded the Crusaders the penalty, they would have had the chance to kick deep inside the Waratahs half and set up a drive from an attacking lineout to wind down the clock.
Former IRB referees selector Bob Francis said from his Masterton home yesterday he had few gripes about Joubert's officiating.
"It [the final penalty] was a fairly hard decision but I thought he had a good performance overall," Francis said. "He got a pretty good look at it [McCaw's ruck entry] and I was reasonably comfortable with it.
"It was certainly tough on the Crusaders, and it did mean the difference between winning and losing, which allows for a lot of scrutiny because of the significance of the decision." For the Crusaders, the anguish of this defeat must go close to equalling the 18-13 shock loss to the Reds in the 2011 grand final in Brisbane.
Unlike that match, when they were travel weary because the earthquakes forced them out of Christchurch, the Crusaders entered this match fresh, free of injuries and confident.
Colin Slade's penalty in the 75th minute put them ahead 32-30, but several poor kicks in the final minutes gifted the Waratahs easy possession.
"We had to be disciplined," Kieran Read said. "It started in the first half when we weren't, and they got a roll on off our ill-discipline in that breakdown area.
"That was the flow-on, it was just one of those ones when a ref makes a call and it went against us tonight."
- The Press
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