Champion flanker Richie McCaw admits he gambled and lost to allow NSW five-eighth Bernard Foley to snatch the Super Rugby title from the Crusaders.
Shattered Richie McCaw admits he “should have done better” after conceding the penalty that allowed the NSW Waratahs to snatch the Super Rugby crown from the Crusaders in the dying seconds of an epic decider in Sydney.
The game’s most decorated player has made a career out of pushing the limits of the law, landing a Rugby World Cup, four Super Rugby titles and a record three world player of the year awards.
But on Saturday night the champion flanker gambled and lost – and his Crusaders paid the ultimate price.
Referee Craig Joubert pinged the veteran flanker for illegally entering a ruck from the side with the Crusaders clinging to a 32-30 lead.
McCaw and his teammates then watched on helplessly as Waratahs five-eighth Bernard Foley nailed the 44-metre attempt to clinch NSW a maiden title with a heartstopping 33-32 victory at ANZ Stadium.
“It’s pretty disappointing really but at least you rolled the dice and that’s what can happen and I’m pretty gutted mate,” a dejected McCaw said.
Asked if Joubert’s decision could have gone either way, McCaw replied: “Yeah, but 50-50, those moments I probably should have known better really.
“I guess that’s what pressure and those sort of moments come down to, being able to back your D and 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.”
The Crusaders had rallied from 14-0 down to lead into the tense closing stages, only for the one-time Super Rugby finals kings to finish bridesmaids again.
While the Crusaders still boast seven titles – four more than the next best team – the Christchurch outfit have now lost nine of their past playoff games on the road.
Since winning the 2008 title under Robbie Deans, the Todd Blackadder-coached side have fallen in the 2011 decider to the Queensland Reds, to the Waratahs in heartbreaking fashion and in four semi-finals.
“Coming second is not much fun, I can tell you that,” Blackadder said.
McCaw and skipper Kieran Read were proud but devastated the Crusaders couldn’t hang on after clawing their way back after their slow start.
“We’re absolutely gutted,” Read said. “We only came here for one result.”
McCaw added: “There’s been a lot of hard work go into getting to here and to trip up like we did is pretty frustrating.
“But you look at the game, we did bloody well to get back into it and I think that’s the most disappointing part, that we got ourselves back and gave ourselves a chance and one or two moments are the difference in big games and that’s the way it is.”
The Crusaders’ cause wasn’t helped by talismanic playmaker Dan Carter succumbing to an ankle injury after after an hour, even though replacement goalkicker Colin Slade piled on 20 points in a near match-winning contribution.
“It wasn’t great losing (Carter) so early, but that’s just life,” Blackadder said.
“I thought the guys that went out there did a pretty good job and Sladey stepped up and kicked the goals that he needed to and (Carter’s centre replacement) Tom Taylor ran bloody well.
“But you don’t like to lose those influential players.”