Going down … the Crusaders' Richie McCaw is tackled by Rocky Elsom of the Waratahs. Sunday’s match at Allianz Stadium, in front of more than 30,000 spectators, was won by the New Zealanders. Photo: Getty Images
What a sensational Mr T hairstyle, and what a devastating performance from the Crusaders centre Robbie Fruean. It involved a bit of everything - speed, try scoring, critical changes in pace, use of space and marvellous hand-to-eye co-ordination. The overall effect of that was Fruean ensuring his team's eight-year dominance of the Waratahs continued, being instrumental in a victory that could easily mean NSW finish among the also-rans.
With just four wins from nine games, the Waratahs' aspirations of making the top six look flaky, particularly as they still have to head to South Africa, where sides under pressure to perform often collapse. Even though it was one of the Waratahs' better efforts for the year, involving resolve and a late revival, they lacked the class and finish of the Crusaders, who as always knew what to do with any half-chance.
And Fruean is a master of squeezing everything out of an opposition bungle. First up, he ran straight through the Waratahs defence for the Crusaders' first try. After the break, he made his opponent Tom Carter look silly by bounding around him for a second try. In between, he set up Zac Guildford's try. No one in the Waratahs defence came anywhere near containing him, and he was the only choice for the man of the match honours.
Super Rugby Waratahs v Crusaders at Allianz Stadium
Super Rugby Waratahs v Crusaders at Allianz Stadium. Waratahs Dean Mumm. Photo: Steve Christo
Fruean is one of Super Rugby's most intriguing characters, showing incredible courage when, after winning the IRB world under-19 player of the year award in 2007, he underwent open-heart surgery.
It is a credit that he is just out on the field. That Fruean is such a midfield menace just adds to the aura.
And so with a bevy of bravehearts, the Crusaders continue their steady rise towards the top of the New Zealand conference, while the Waratahs ponder when exactly they are ever going to get one over them. You have to go right back to Ewen McKenzie's first match as Waratahs coach in February 2004 for any NSW joy against the Cantabrians.
Devastating ... Crusaders centre Robbie Fruean. Photo: Getty Images
Ten straight losses to the Crusaders is a big concern, but it's still not the time for the Wallabies to make an appointment to see a shrink. There were some positive aspects. It appears the Waratahs can still lure a crowd, with 30,663 spectators showing that afternoon rugby is the way to bring the people back.
Admittedly, the figure was boosted by the Crusaders having a healthy following in Sydney, but it is also a good enough reason for Waratahs heavies to lobby SANZAR for more afternoon games.
For most of the game, the crowd would have been happy they made the effort, because the Waratahs never wilted. They sometimes got caught up in persisting with midfield up and unders, but overall kicked less than the Crusaders. The Crusaders booted it 25 times, compared to the Waratahs' 20. But the Waratahs also kept the ball in hand for lengthy periods, succeeding in breaking through three times.
Numerous Waratahs stood out. Halfback Brendan McKibbin was their best, providing good service and peerless goalkicking. Sarel Pretorius certainly knows he has a major battle to regain his No.1 halfback spot, and it was not surprising that he produced the team's second-half highlight when he scampered off to score after a ball spat out the side of a scrum.
The Waratahs had their moments, but they failed to win the big moments - such as when the Crusaders' attack were allowed room to manoeuvre. Seizing the moment and never wasting an opportunity is why the Crusaders have won seven Super Rugby titles; the Waratahs, none.