It was like the great days of Sean Fitzpatrick, except the boot was on the other foot.

The Crusaders won all the big calls from the refs at Eden Park, including a truly bizarre final lineout non-decision.

Yes, the cynical Crusaders got away with murder against the Blues. They will have laughed their way home, with zany coach Scott Robertson's likeable persona helping hide the ugly truth about how they played and what they got away with.

All Blacks and Blues hero "Fitzy" was a master at this game in the 1980s and 90s, relying on own reputation and that of the all-powerful teams he played for to rule the roost on the field.


It's early days in 2019, but the double champion Crusaders may be on Planet Fitzy. They got a similar "rub of the green" from the refereeing team on Saturday night, in their two point win.

Akira Ioane. Photo /
Akira Ioane. Photo /

The last lineout was an absolute doozy. Ben Funnell's throw was more crooked than a Bernie Madoff money deal. The ball was heading towards the Crusaders backline. Lock Luke Romano had to reach way back, towards his own goal line, to haul it in. No whistle.

There's no major argument over the legitimacy of the two Crusaders penalty tries awarded by Nick Briant...except to say this.

If it had been Fiji on attack against the All Blacks at Eden Park, involving the exact same scenarios, both those tries would very likely not have been given. We all know that.

Sometimes great teams can hold sway with referees directly.

For instance, the 300-game Arsenal football defender Martin Keown would race to the tunnel at halftime when they played Manchester United, to keep the legendary red devil Alex Ferguson from getting near the referee.

But the subconscious power of reputation can also influence.

Ma'a Nonu. Blues v Crusaders, Super Rugby, Eden Park. Photo /
Ma'a Nonu. Blues v Crusaders, Super Rugby, Eden Park. Photo /

It all went one way in this opening Super Rugby game in Auckland.


Crusaders prop Joe Moody — who gets my vote as the dirtiest bloke in New Zealand rugby — looked like he deliberately stood on Akira Ioane and nothing happened.

Crusaders loosie Jordan Taufua tackled Josh Goodhue off the ball, when the Blues lock was trying to support a break, and nothing happened.

The Crusaders were repeatedly cynical on defence without appropriate punishment.

Wing Manasa Mataele got away with thrusting a hand at a Blues pass, on a technicality you understand.

Someone asked me this morning if Crusaders icon Todd Blackadder was refereeing. I know what he means.

There are a lot of debatable decisions in rugby. We all accept that. But the chips kept falling the Crusaders way.

The final lineout was totally, completely, outrageously unacceptable, because the situation was so clear, and there was no time left for the disadvantaged team to do anything about it.

If Romano had needed to reach any further, he might have got his hand stuck in a turnstile.

How could any top class refereeing unit worth its wages miss something that blatant?

Because the champions were involved, I would argue. That's why. If it had been the Sunwolves, whistle every time.

Message to referees: Don't let the Crusaders take the whistle out of your mouth. The Crusaders are good enough already. They don't need your help.