It's 16 years since the Crusaders thrashed the Waratahs 96-19 in their final round Super 12 clash. Ninety-six remains the most points scored by one team in a Super Rugby game while the Crusaders' 14 tries is a record matched only by the Lions against the Sunwolves last year.
The teams just happen to clash tomorrow in Christchurch. Crusaders coach Scott Robertson started at No 8 for the red-and-blacks that night while Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson scored a try off the Crusaders' bench.
I was working for TVNZ's website nzoom. With two games being played that night and just two staff on, I drew the long straw and blogged the earlier clash between the Highlanders and the Reds. Colleague Dana Johannsen (you may have heard of her) had the misfortune of having to blog the Crusaders-Waratahs clash. Blogging can be intense - having to describe 17 tries was next level.
To mark the 16th anniversary I decided to finally blog the game, courtesy of a YouTube link for a Japanese audience but with Sky commentators.
The Crusaders and Waratahs head into the game as the two best teams in the competition. The home side are unbeaten through 10 games while the Waratahs suffered just their second defeat a week earlier to the Reds. The Waratahs have the best defence in the competition, averaging less than 19 points a game.
Grant Nisbett is the commentator. Nisbo is joined by the John Drake.
Sidenote: I always loved the expert comments of the late John Drake. You would learn so much about scrum play from him. I'm told he was a bloody good columnist for the Herald as well.
"This could well be the dress rehearsal of the final in a couple of weeks' time," says Nisbo.
Sidenote 2: It could have been the dress rehearsal, but the 'Tahs backed this game up with a 51-10 home semifinal defeat to the Brumbies. 147 points conceded in two weeks... no wonder they're relaxed about the Sunwolves' plight.
1.20: A fan is caught on camera with a camera, taking a picture of the ground as the Crusaders horses leave Jade Stadium. Ahh the days before smartphones when you took a camera to the game and took poor quality photos. Don't think that's a digital camera either. If not I bet he couldn't wait to get that to a pharmacy and see how they turned out. You'd have to think he paid extra for the one-hour turnaround.
2.10: The Waratahs enter a packed Jade Stadium. "Sold out for weeks," Nisbo says. That surely can't be right. That's an Australian team running out there. I'm pretty sure a player drops an f-bomb on the way out. I hope that wasn't translated for the Japanese audience. I recognise a few names – who can forget prop Matt Dunning? No 8 David Lyons was pretty handy. Southland player Des Tuivaii is in for an injured Phil Waugh. Good luck against Richie McCaw mate. Manny Edmonds is the Waratahs first-five. Matt Burke at centre. Mat Rogers at fullback.
3.32: Reuben Thorne leads out the Crusaders followed closely by a frost-tipped Justin Marshall and Norm 'does he get enough credit as a decent lock'? Maxwell. Look at all those All Blacks. Marika Vunibaka is the only non-All Black, though he played 17 tests for Fiji and close to decade for their dominant sevens side. Nathan Mauger didn't play a test but did play two games for the ABs. Some decent future coaches in there as well in Mark Hammett, Scott Robertson, Aaron Mauger and Leon MacDonald.
Jonathan Kaplan is the referee. He looks so young (checks Wikipedia). He was 36 at the time. He looks half of that.
1st minute: Richie McCaw just missed a tackle in the opening seconds. This kid won't amount to anything. But the Waratahs hand the ball over straight away. McCaw tries to make up for his mistake with a hit up but goes backwards. Get him off the field already. The Crusaders stretch out wide but Vunibaka turns the ball over. Rogers attempts to kick the ball up field but it slices off the side of his boot.
1.37: Manny Edmonds makes a huge break. It's that bloody McCaw again with the missed tackle. Seriously? Bring back Angus Gardiner. Edmonds runs clear all the way over the Crusaders' 22m and looks to pass out wide to an open winger but it is misdirected and dropped. Maybe it's those gloves Edmonds is wearing.
3rd minute: Crusaders try. What a crazy lead-up to the opening try. Andrew Mehrtens kicks low with his left boot to Caleb Ralph who hacks ahead and the chase is on. Rogers gets there first. Another shocking Waratahs clearance keeps play alive and the Crusaders eventually spread wide, somehow escape an intercept by Burke who knocks on and Aaron Mauger pounces on the ball to set up Vunibaka for the five-pointer down the right-hand touch. Can't think of another winger that wore/wears headgear. Maybe Rico Gear for a short time. Mehrtens with the kick (shout out to Jonah Lomu Rugby)…he gets it and it's 7-0.
"We're in for a spectacle tonight I feel," says Drake.
6th minute: Crusaders on the attack again and Mehrtens kicks for the corner of Vunibaka but a scrambling Rogers gets there first and kicks out. Giving the ball at every opportunity to Vunibaka looks a great plan. He's a beast and Nemani Nandolo is still 12 years away. This rugby seems free-flowing or maybe the Waratahs just can't be arsed playing.
7th minute: Crusaders try. From the lineout the Crusaders drive and Greg Feek dives over. Too easy. And Drake perfectly describes want went wrong for the Waratahs in less than 30 seconds. Mehrtens curls around the kick and is two from two. Crusaders 14-0.
"This is the last thing Bob Dwyer wanted. The last thing he wants is his side to leave this city on a backwards note," says sideline eye Ian Smith. A backwards note?
11th minute: Marshall just did a pass between his legs. Not really worth a "boomfa" though as nothing comes of it.
13th minute: Crusaders try. But this is worth a "boomfa". Marshall crosses for the Crusaders' third, darting from close range. An earlier Aaron Mauger break got the Crusaders close to the tryline before a certain try was botched. However it eventually comes a few phases later. Mehrtens knocks it over from in front and it's 21-0 after 13 minutes.
15th minute: Crusaders try. Number four and bonus point as Ralph finds a gap near the line and goes straight through. It all came from more sloppy Waratahs play as Edmonds attempts a clearance that went about five metres. The Crusaders haven't been perfect but the Waratahs have pretty much invited them to score tries whenever they wanted. Mehrts converts and it's 28-0.
"This is a bit of an embarrassment for the Waratahs," says Nisbo.
Sidenote: There's a cricket pitch in the middle and on that wicket a few months previously Nathan Astle blitzed 222 against England, the fastest test double-century. This led me down a YouTube rabbit hole of Astle highlights.
Back to the rugby. It seems both teams have accepted that the Crusaders are taking the points and there's some scrappy play from both teams.
Somehow there's still 87 points left to be scored.
24th minute: Crusaders try. Number five. Mehrtens does that great thing, which set up the first Ralph try, where he runs flat across field and puts the outside player into the space behind him he's created. Aaron Mauger skips two tackles, passes to MacDonald and he sends Ralph in for his second. Mehrtens converts his fifth and it's 35-0.
30th minute: Crusaders try. Number six. And it's the best so far because it's a pushover try and I love/miss pushover tries. Robertson at the back of the scrum does a great job as the scrum wheels and he picks up less than a metre from the line and dives over. Mehrtens makes it six from six. 42-0.
36th minute: Crusaders try. That's seven as Aaron Mauger does a forward roll to celebrate. This really was a superb try as MacDonald kicks out to the wing and Mauger gets to it. He passes inside to Ralph who then does a flick pass back inside to Mauger to score at close range. Mehrtens makes it seven from seven and it's 49-0.
38th minute: Crusaders try. From the kick off the Waratahs are pinged for a dangerous tackle. The Crusaders tap-and-go and eventually Robertson scores his second out on the left. Mehrtens makes it eight from eight as the Crusaders crack the half century. 56-0.
40th minute: Crusaders try. Number nine and the third in the space of four minutes as Robertson breaks another gap and puts MacDonald away under the posts. The Jade Stadium crowd is loving it. Mehrtens kicks his ninth of the half and it's 63-0 at halftime. The Crusaders get a standing ovation as they walk off.
Here are the videos I can click on the righthand side of this YouTube video...
2004 Super 12 final
2000 Bledisloe Cup test
Lions v All Blacks second test 1993
Crusaders v Waratahs 2002
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two
Crusaders v Force, 2012
Are these suggestions based on my personal YouTube usage or what other people have watched? Tough call though: Rupert Grint or Sam Broomhall in their prime?
Nisbo just called the Waratahs "gutless". It's not far off the mark. Drake adds that "the Waratahs can't be as bad in the second half as they were in the first". We'll see.
Marc Stcherbina on for Manny Edmonds. I've got a feeling it won't make a difference.
43rd minute: Waratahs try. The Crusaders give away their first penalty of the game. But the Waratahs don't take the shot at goal. Following a scrum they spread it wide and left wing Francis Cullimore scores on the right. Burke misses the conversion and it's 63-5. Next try wins I'd say.
Sidenote: Here's Cullimore on Australian Ninja Warrior.
Meanwhile Gibson is on for the Crusaders as Aaron Mauger departs. Corey Flynn also comes on along with David Hewett. Just three All Blacks off the bench. Van Humphries is also on for the Waratahs. All the cool kids at school had Vans shoes, so that made this guy cool in my book.
49th minute: Crusaders try. Their 10th of the game and some individual brilliance from Ralph who gets his hat-trick. Marshall collects a high ball and the Crusaders spread left from their own 30 where there is an overlap. Ralph runs down the touchline, kicks ahead and regathers on the bounce. Mehrtens collects his 10th conversion. It's 70-5.
Bradley Mika enters the field for Norm Maxwell. Johnny Leo'o, the second non-All Black, replaces Thorne. Another typical Thorne game doing all the grunt work and tackled his guts out.
Sidenote: To be honest I never once noticed Thorne after he led the team out.
51st minute: Crusaders try. Now it's looking like a training run. From a scrum… Marshall goes for a run then does a double-round with MacDonald, passes to Gibson who sends Vunibaka with a clear run to the tryline. McCaw was in the mix but ignored by Marshall. Mehrtens kicks his 11th conversion and the Crusaders pass the Super 12 points scoring record previously held by the Sharks over the Crusaders. 77-5.
53rd minute: Shout out to David Lyons who puts in some big runs despite trailing by 72 points. Vunibaka departs and Ben Blair is on the wing.
56th minute: Crusaders try. No 12. Comes from a long Mehrtens clearance and Burke chases it down and attempts a chip-and-chase from inside his own 22m. McCaw recovers, the Crusaders go wide and Ralph is tackled just short of his fourth. Instead he pops up a pass for Gibson who crosses. The play included the great sight of Flynn at halfback. Mehrtens kicks his 12th conversion. 84-5.
Marshall departs as the Crusaders empty the bench. Ben Hurst at halfback for the final 24 minutes.
60th minute: Waratahs try. Is the comeback on? With a four-on-two overlap inside their half, Mehrtens is intercepted by Stcherbina and the Waratahs reserve runs 48 metres to score. MacDonald tries to chase down Stcherbina - you're up 84-5 Leon, let them have this one. Burke gets the conversion, although Nisbo says it's wide as the flags are raised. It's 84-12.
63rd minute: Oops. Sky Analyst Jon Preston calls the Waratahs the Warriors. A bit harsh considering the Warriors were sitting near the top of the NRL table at the time.
64th minute: Crusaders try. Ralph has his fourth. Crusaders have their 13th. The Crusaders have a four-on-one overlap and MacDonald does the yards and sucks in the man before passing to Ralph for an open run to the tryline. Mehrtens kicks his 13th and it's 91-12.
70th minute: Waratahs try. Crusaders give away their second penalty of the game. Shortly followed by a third. Just not good enough. The Waratahs tap-and-go and Tuivaii gets the final say in his battle with McCaw as he dives over from a ruck. Burke converts and is two from three. Crusaders 91 Waratahs 19. Last try wins?
72nd minute: Crusaders try. MacDonald is over for the Crusaders' 14th. Simple catch-and-pass and again there is space out wide. It's on the corner which leaves a tough one for Mehrtens. And he misses it. It hits the post. Mehrts is 13 from 14 for the night. 96-19.
Crusaders have eight minutes to try and crack the ton while the Waratahs can still claim a bonus point - so a lot to play for?
80th minute: The Crusaders have a scrum on the Waratahs' 22m with time almost up. Their last chance to crack three figures. But the ball is ripped away from Hurst, someone drops and f-bomb and the game is over. Not a fitting finish to a try-scoring bonanza.
Thorne: "It's hard to know what to say after a game like that. It's just one of those nights I guess when everything went our way."
Postscript: A week later the Crusaders scored 62 less points in beating the Highlanders in their semifinal clash. The Waratahs were once again humiliated by the Brumbies in Sydney. In the final the Crusaders claimed a fourth title winning 31-13. The 2002 season was the start of a 13-year run where the Crusaders made the playoffs each season, the last of which in 2014 was a defeat to the Waratahs in the Super Rugby final.