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'There was some upset guys afterwards': Crusaders won't dwell on 'seven genuine try opportunities' missed

By Sam Smith

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For the first time since Scott Robertson took over as head coach in 2017, the Crusaders won’t be contesting a Super Rugby final.

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Having topped the log in Super Rugby Aotearoa and disposed of the Chiefs in that competition’s grand final, the Crusaders won’t feature in the Trans-Tasman equivalent after failing to nab the requisite winning margin against the Rebels on Saturday evening.

Despite winning all five of their matches against Australian opposition, their points differential sits seven points of the second-placed Highlanders, leaving them third on the overall table.

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It’s a cruel way for their season to end, having won their last seven matches.

“We had a really clear vision of leaving our mark on two trophies this year, and six in five years,” Robertson said following the Crusaders’ 52-26 win over the Rebels. “But we got five in five years and it’s been a hell of a run.”

The Crusader entered the game knowing they needed to score a bonus point against the lowly Rebels whilst also besting their Australian opposition by 33 points in order to book a place in the final.

The 26-point win still pushed the Crusaders into second place on the Trans-Tasman rankings after the match but the Blues’ win over the Western Force ultimately ended the Cantabrians’ season.

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What will sting especially for Robertson is that his charges had ample opportunities over the past two weeks to secure the points needed to top the log.

The Western Force scored a try with the last play of the game in Christchurch last weekend which robbed the home side of their winning bonus point, while there were also a handful of opportunities that went begging against the Rebels.

“We just didn’t take the opportunities that we created ourselves,” said Robertson. “Plenty of opportunities, seven genuine try opportunities that we didn’t take in the game to get the job done.

“We’re really proud but also probably disappointed, over the last five weeks there was some big moments. Probably the biggest one was the last play against the Force, we probably would have had a home final in reflection, if you look at the board if we could have been better there.

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“There was some upset guys afterwards, but you’ve just got to pat them on the back, you don’t want to dwell too much.”

Regardless of how the 2021 season has finished, it’s been an exceptional run for the Crusaders since Robertson took over.

In 2017, the Crusaders travelled to Johannesburg and best the Lions in their backyard before doing the same in Christchurch a year later. It was a similar story in 2019 with the Crusaders scoring a 19-3 win over the Jaguares.

Last year, the Crusaders topped the log in Super Rugby Aotearoa, handing them their fourth title in as many years.

The nature of the Trans-Tasman competition, where points weren’t carried over from the local Aotearoa and AU competitions, meant that it was always going to be a roll of a dice to determine who out of the relatively evenly-matched New Zealand sides would compete in the final.

Ironically, neither of the Aotearoa finalists will take the field in the final this weekend – underlying how peculiar the Trans-Tasman competition really is.

It’s expected that a more standard format will be adopted next year – and regardless of who wins this year’s final, the Crusaders will almost certainly enter the 2022 competition as clear favourites.

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'There was some upset guys afterwards': Crusaders won't dwell on 'seven genuine try opportunities' missed

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