Crusaders 2022 Season
We’ve been underdogs all season, but championship pedigree did rise to the top when it mattered.
If someone told me at the start of the season that we would make the final at Eden Park to play a highly touted and much improved Blues squad, I would’ve taken that every day of the week.
There were many question marks before the first whistle - Moody and Taylor coming off subpar international seasons and looked to be on the wane, a crop of young props still getting their feet wet, an ageing Sam Whitelock, an unsettled back row with a really good player in Blackadder that has played a bit of 6 and 7, questions over Richie’s temperament under pressure, a midfield meh, and two class back 3 players but not knowing who should fill that other spot - Ennor, Bridge or Fainga’anuku.
There was also a serious case of “who’s next” in some key positions like fullback, 1st 5 and lock.
In my opinion, things started to click a few weeks ago when Razor figured out our best starting backline with the return of Goodhue - Hall, Mo’unga, Fainga’anuku, Havili, Goodhue, Reece, Jordan.
He would take a punt on no specialist 1st 5 on the bench and have the two AB 3/4’s in Ennor and Bridge, plus Drummond.
It might seem strange that I’ve focused on that as a turning point, when for years the Saders play has been focused on forward play creating the momentum either through turnover ball at the ruck or set piece, but from my armchair this simple thing appeared to give the team a shot of confidence and built a sense of trust. Our backline up until that point had been hit and miss with some individual brilliance but not a lot of cohesion on both sides of the ball.
The final two weeks demonstrated this cohesion particularly on the defensive side of the ball. So hats off to Tamati Ellison for his work with the backs.
As a fan this finals victory does feel pretty satisfying. We beat our bogey team last weekend and then backed it up at fortress Eden Park in front of a massive crowd (great stuff Auckland for showing out) to get the choccies.
So to Razor and the crew, congratulations. You timed the run to the finals beautifully. We played two very different games but did so effectively.
According to ACT Crusader
Best forward: Ethan Blackadder
Best back: Will Jordan
Most improved: George Bower & Sevu Reece
Upcomer of the year: Tamaiti Williams
Surprise of the year: Fletcher Newell & Gallagher
Player of the year: Will Jordan