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Former Wallaby refuses to ‘put a line through’ Crusaders’ title hopes

By Finn Morton
The Crusaders look dejected after defeat during the round eight Super Rugby Pacific match between NSW Waratahs and Crusaders at Allianz Stadium, on April 12, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

They may sit second last on the ladder with a disastrous 1-6 record but the Crusaders are still in with a chance of defending their Super Rugby Pacific titles according to former Wallaby Stephen Hoiles.


After starting the season with five defeats on the trot, the Crusaders snapped their uncharacteristically poor losing run with an upset 37-26 win over New Zealand rivals the Chiefs late last month.

The Crusaders went on a bye before turning their focus to a Trans-Tasman blockbuster in Sydney. The equally-as-desperate Waratahs waited for them, and the thriller more than lived up to the hype.


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Wing Sevu Reece scored the opening try inside the opening minute, but after trading points for more than 80 minutes, both teams went to golden point. In the end, the Waratahs emerged victorious.

Replacement Will Harrison handed the Crusaders their sixth loss of the season from seven starts – and their second defeat to the Waratahs in 2024 – with a clutch drop goal at Allianz Stadium.

The Waratahs sit just one point outside the top eight now while the Crusaders are six points off the pace. But Super Rugby winner Stephen Hoiles won’t rule the reigning champions out just yet.

“Not yet. Can I have another week on that one? One more week, one more week and we’ll put a line through their name,” Hoiles said on Stan Sports’ Between Two Posts.


“Even for the Tahs this week, as good as that win was, then they’ve got Moana go on a win.”

With the Waratahs leading by just four points with a couple of minutes to play, the Crusaders need a hero. Replacement Christian Lio-Willie was the player who rose to the occasion at the death.

Lio-Willie scored what was believed to be the match-winning try with about 90 seconds to play, but the Waratahs were gifted another opportunity to claw their way back after the conversion.

Will Harrison slotted a long-range penalty attempt to send the clash to extra-time with a scoreline of 40-all. Harrison’s heroics weren’t done there with the fly-half nailing a drop goal to win it.

After more than 700 days, Harrison returned to Super Rugby Pacific after an unfortunate run of injures earlier this season. But this was the crowning moment for a man who “didn’t think he was going to play rugby again.”


“We both know Will really well. We’ve seen him come all the way through. We worked closely with Mark Harrison, his dad,” former Wallaby Morgan Turinui explained alongside Stephen Hoiles.

“The family have had a tumultuous year, two years… lots of things going on.

“I coached Jack, his brother. Ella works for us at the front gate at Coogee Oval. They’re a Randwick family… I know what the family around Will have gone through as well.

“There were lots of times where you didn’t think he was going to play rugby again, let alone get back to that level.

“He’s a great kid. There’s lots of other stories like that, it’s just that we have a really close connection to the people around it so we’ve seen firsthand what goes beyond him to get to that moment on the weekend.

“To see him come through, pretty happy.”


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Abe 3 hours ago
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