Six talking points from a dramatic, hard-fought Super Rugby Aotearoa final.
NO QUESTIONS ABOUT THEIR PLACE IN HISTORY
The Crusaders and coach Scott Robertson didn't really have more points to prove on Saturday night, but five successive wins in the toughest club competition in the world makes Robertson the best coach, and his squads the best club teams, in the history of professional rugby.
It's fascinating now to look back on some of the reaction when he was first appointed to the Crusaders in 2017. One gnarled Canterbury veteran, asked about Robertson's chances of success in Super Rugby, muttered, "Well, he'll be able to teach them how to dance anyway."
What many didn't realise was that behind the wide-eyed enthusiasm that flies off him like a roman candle is a man who worked for decades at becoming a good coach. As a 22-year-old player he was already coaching an under-13 side at Christ's College. He's extremely proud he took his Sumner club team into first grade before he retired from playing in 2007.
He's told me how, as a Crusaders player, "I had my own playbook with my moves and my structures. I'd go to the different coaches and show them, and say, 'Can I do this better? What about this?'" Years later Wayne Smith would remember Robertson and his playbook with affection and some humour. "He could drive you mad with his questions, but how could you not warm to the guy?"
They're very different people, but talking over the years to our only undefeated All Black coach, Fred Allen I saw the same glint that's now always in Robertson's eyes. When it comes to rugby coaching there couldn't be higher praise.
OKAY, MAYBE STEPHEN JONES IS SOMETIMES RIGHT
For decades many of us have jeered at the love British commentators like Stephen Jones have for games that have been decided by penalty kicks and drop goals, not by the frivolous Colonial method of scoring tries.
But while sitting through the tryless second half of the Crusaders' 24-13 win over the Chiefs in the Super Rugby Aotearoa final may not have made riveting television viewing for everyone, being in a packed stadium with 17,100 fans, some of them brave enough to ring cowbells at strategic moments, was electrifying.
By all rights the Chiefs, without a starting player who had ever been in a final before, shouldn't have stood a chance.
Ultimately the oddsmakers at the TAB were almost scarily accurate in picking the Crusaders by 10.5 points, but the courage and resilience the men from Hamilton showed was extraordinary. Down 12-3 after 15 minutes, a lesser team would have crumbled. Instead they fashioned a beautiful try for Damian McKenzie, and at 12-10 the match caught fire.
PRESSURE CAN BE A CRUEL BEAST
McKenzie has won games this season with his kicking, but as harsh as it sounds, the three penalty goals he missed, one before halftime and two after the break, were pivotal moments in the game.
By comparison Richie Mo'unga was at the heart of everything for the Crusaders, from slicing apart defensive lines with his running, missing just one kick, and having the icy calculation to know that a drop goal in the 63rd minute was worth trying because, even if it missed, there was a penalty advantage and a gift three points from the tee on offer. The drop kick sailing over just saved everyone time.
When Beauden Barrett has his shoes back under the New Zealand rugby table, the riches the All Black selectors have available at first-five will be the envy of the world. The All Black decision should be well informed, given that the two senior men on the selection panel, Ian Foster and Grant Fox, both played in the No 10 jersey.
TALKING OF PRESSURE, WELL DONE TO THE GRACE CHIEFS' COACH CLAYTON MCMILLAN SHOWED AFTER THE GAME
Big games often benefit from the spice of controversy, and there was certainly the potential for that in the decision in the 32nd minute to not allow a try to Jonah Lowe, but to penalise Will Jordan for his tackle of Lowe on the line.
Replays showed that Jordan's left hand slapped Lowe on the face. Hence the penalty. So why, it would be a fair question to ask, wasn't a penalty try awarded?
Let's quote what McMillan said after the game. "We'd probably question whether that was a penalty try, but I don't think he [Lowe] controlled the ball anyway, so it's a little irrelevant. I'm not sure that the head-high tackle really had an influence on him not getting the try down, so they probably made the right decision."
From someone in the Crusaders that would have been a totally gratuitous remark. From the coach of the Chiefs it was pure class.
CRUSADER OF THE SEASON
It's a crowded field, but as brilliant as Richie Mo'unga and Sevu Reece were in the final, Sam Whitelock, at 32, has never played better than he has in 2021. On Saturday night he was a key figure in the disruption of the Chiefs' lineout, which in the first half almost became a lottery. Add in a massive work rate in general play and Whitelock is key to the team's success.
I THINK RAZOR'S WRONG. IT'S NOT SO MUCH DISLIKE, MORE GOOD OLD FASHIONED ENVY
At a highly intimate after-match press conference, with everyone crowded together on a loading dock, Scott Robertson suggested, with a laugh, that the Crusaders were "disliked immensely."
Having grown up in a home with a father who was a Catholic, I know just enough of the church's catechism of sin to seriously suggest that those who malign the Crusaders are actually committing one of the oldest sins known to man, that of envy.
How stupid is that emotion? Old fashioned envy once made officials at the Blues refuse to follow patterns of unity set down so successfully by the Crusaders.
How common is that emotion amongst Kiwi sports fans? You don't need to look as recently as Israel Adesanya and his tall poppy speech. Back in 1988 Susan Devoy spent seven weeks walking the length of New Zealand, raising $500,000 for muscular dystrophy. When she arrived back in Auckland a handful of letters awaited her that suggested she was, as one charmingly put it, a "publicity-seeking b***h".