Sydney - The Canterbury Crusaders deserve some credit for keeping their quest for an eighth Super Rugby title alive until the final minute of the season, according to coach Todd Blackadder.
The New Zealanders led the New South Wales Waratahs by two points with the end of the match in sight at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday before Bernard Foley's long-range penalty snatched a 33-32 victory and a first title for the home side.
Blackadder captained the Crusaders to the first three of their seven Super Rugby titles from 1998 to 2000 but his search for his first as a coach is now destined to go into his seventh season in the job.
“You certainly prepare to win these things and coming second is not much fun, I can tell you that. This competition is all about winning,” he told reporters.
“I think we're disappointed but it's not the end of the world. We had our opportunities, so while we're disappointed that we didn't take them we gave ourselves a good chance to win.
“We knew that if we kept the ball we could break down their defences and ... credit to our guys, they were in control until the last minute.”
Despite his clear disappointment, Blackadder was gracious enough to pay lavish compliments to the Waratahs, even if he was not certain they deserved the penalty that won them the game.
It came when the Waratahs were hammering away at the Crusaders defence and South African referee Craig Joubert penalised All Blacks captain Richie McCaw for coming into a ruck from the side.
“Fifty-fifty, I thought, could have gone either way, comes down to those moments, doesn't it?” Blackadder said.
“There was nothing between those sides. I was really proud of the way our guys fought back, it comes down to those moments between winning the competition and not.”
Skipper Kieran Read could not conceal his disappointment that McCaw had gambled on trying to turn over the ball with the Crusaders in front and so little time left in the game.
“I was certainly backing our defence,” said the number eight.
“We probably didn't need to give away any penalties because we're fit enough to defend it and it showed because they weren't going anywhere.”
McCaw, who built his reputation as one of the greatest players of all time because of his ability to judge the fine line between legal and illegal play at the breakdown, admitted his own disappointment.
“I probably should have known better really,” he told reporters.
“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.” – Reuters