Ryan Crotty carries scars from Sydney defeat
Ryan Crotty looked like he had been struck in the face with a tomahawk.
The bearded midfielder didn't know how he suffered the nasty cuts but the inflamed sprig marks, which were decorated by the stitches across his forehead and left ear, were clear evidence of a boot being raked over his head.
"Yeah, I look a bit like Frankenstein," a shattered Crotty lamented as he hobbled out of the team's changing shed following the 33-32 loss to the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday night.
The physical wounds will heal in time. It might take longer for the emotional pain of losing his second grand final to fade.
The midfielder took the field as a substitute when the Crusaders lost 18-13 to the Reds in Brisbane in 2011 but as vice-captain on Saturday night he was desperate to collect his first winner's medal.
Instead he could only reflect on being denied by a controversial call by referee Craig Joubert in the final minute.
"I probably can't comment on the refereeing decisions but I felt we had a really good opportunity to turn a couple of those last rucks over," Crotty said in reference to Richie McCaw's ill-fated decision to try and make a steal.
"But it just didn't go our way. I'm just proud of the boys. We had our backs against the walls pretty early in the season and a lot of people doubted us but we fought hard to get back and showed true character.
"And, you know, it came down to one point."
Crotty suffered his injury, which bled profusely on to the ANZ Stadium turf, late in the match.
After having his head bound in a swathe of bandages and tape he immediately went back into action. Several Crusaders players blinked back tears of frustration and disappointment when Joubert blew the final whistle and fullback Israel Dagg was particularly emotional as he reacted angrily to the jeers from Waratahs fans.
"Losing is never easy - especially in a final and when it's one that you think you did enough win," Crotty added.
"To have it taken away right at the end like that is pretty devastating."
For long serving hooker Corey Flynn the loss ruined his hopes of exiting the franchise with his fifth winner's medal.
He will soon leave New Zealand with his family to play for French club Toulouse.
"It was never about me signing off with a win.
"As a group it was bitterly disappointing; we were in with a chance after we fought back but it is what it is and the Waratahs deserve their win."