The Waratahs have beaten the Crusaders 33-32 to win the 2014 Super Rugby championship.
The grand final surpassed the lofty expectations of all rugby fans and quite simply it was the best game of rugby I have witnessed since the 2003 Rugby World Cup Semi Final. We will have more in depth analysis over the coming weeks, but tonight is a chance to have a look at what happened and how the Tahs won.
With 62,000 fans at Olympic Park, the sense of occasion was obvious. Never before had the Waratahs hosted a Super Rugby grand final, and their attacking rugby throughout the season brought in a loud and excited crowd.
Whilst the Crusaders squad was loaded with finals experience, it was the hosts who burst out of the block with an unconverted try to Adam Ashley-Cooper and two penalty goals meaning they took an 11-0 lead after just ten minutes. It was tempting to hope that the Tahs would run away with the game from there but the Crusaders were never going to let that happen as they scored a great try in broken play. Both teams traded penalty goals with the Waratahs leading 20-13 at the half time break.
The atmosphere around the stadium was electric at the start of the second half. The Waratahs had dominated contact and possession and Dan Carter had come off injured. All the had to do is make sure the Crusaders didn't outscore them by seven or more points. Unfortunately for Tahs fans, it wasn't going to be that easy.
The first fifteen minutes of the second half saw a lapse in defensive pressure from the Waratahs. Whilst they were still solid, they lacked the manic pressure that had put them in a winning position. The Crusaders only need an inch of space to score and they capitalised on this with an early try to behemoth winger Nemani Nadolo, this was quickly followed by a penalty goal and suddenly the Crusaders were winning 23-20.
It all started to fall apart for the Waratahs, silly penalties and field kicking meant that the Crusaders were constantly just in front. A hero was required and Adam Ashley-Cooper appeared to score his second try of the night to give the Tahs the lead with 15 minutes to go. A poor Folau field kick lead to the Crusaders scoring a penalty to put them ahead 32-30 with four minutes to go.
The old Waratahs would have let their heads fall, but not this squad. In a beautiful moment for Australian Rugby Richie Mccaw gave away a penalty with 90 seconds remaining giving Bernard Foley a shot from 45m to win the game. With 62,000 people literally on the edge of their seats Foley calmly slotted the field goal which just made the distance and secured the Tahs first ever title.
All that's left to say is,
Up the Tahs!
Usually we take a look at areas that decided the game, but due to a mixture of adrenalin and beer this will be covered in articles throughout the week.