It was the first 25 minutes that killed the Crusaders last night. They know it. They didn't turn up in that opening period - stood back and let the Waratahs own the game.

And to be fair to the Waratahs, they owned it all right. They didn't stand back and look this particular gift horse in the mouth. They didn't relent. They held possession, made sure the Crusaders couldn't get their hands on the ball and hurt the visitors by making sure they scored points.

They had 14 before the Crusaders had even, really, had touched the ball and it was that period captain Kieran Read was ruing last night.

"We definitely started slowly," he said. "I can't pinpoint why. It was pretty tough to come back from that.


"In the end, we couldn't. Certainly proud of the way we fought back. I thought we did enough to control the game.

"It came down to one kick in the end. We are gutted. We came here for only one result and it's disappointing not to get that win. It's a game where there is a winner and loser."

That one kick will live with them. There will be various views about it. One is that they didn't need to panic when defending the breakdown, especially as it was an area they were dominating once they got into the game. If they had held their discipline, they probably would have held out.

The second view is that referee Craig Joubert was overly harsh on Richie McCaw. Certainly Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder wasn't sure.

"It was 50-50, I thought," Blackadder said. "It could have gone either way. It comes down to those moments between winning the competition or not. I'd like to see it again.

"It's not the end of the world. They have been the best team all season and they should be proud."

History can't be changed, though. They will have to stew on that moment for another year. They will have to hear all over again how they have lost their once-treasured skill of winning games that really matter.

They have been in two finals now and more semifinals than they can remember under Blackadder - but still no title.

Maybe it would have been different had Daniel Carter stayed on the field. His composure and accuracy under pressure might have made a difference.

The update on him was at least encouraging. He has a corked thigh and, while sore, should be able to get over it reasonably quickly.