Super 14 Rugby

Deans and McKenzie set up final swansong

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The Crusaders and Waratahs won their way to rugby’s Super 14 final, creating an emotional showdown for retiring coaches Robbie Deans and Ewen McKenzie (pictured).


Deans guided the Crusaders to a 33-22 win Saturday over the Hurricanes, their 10th final in 13 years of Super tournament rugby – and Deans can now bow out with his fifth and their seventh championship title.


McKenzie led the Waratahs to a 28-13 win over the Sharks, shutting the South Africans out of the final and giving the Waratahs an opportunity to claim their first title at the end of a season in which his contract was terminated by the franchise management.


It will be Deans’ final match after 11 years in charge of the Crusaders – he leaves for Australia immediately to coach the Wallabies – and McKenzie’s last after four years with the Waratahs.


Both teams are already aware of the need to manage that emotion in a heated finals atmosphere.


“When individuals leave they don’t want it to become bigger than the team,” Crusaders captain Richie McCaw said.


“They just want the team to function well so I think that’s going to be the case this week when Robbie goes. He will make sure we don’t get carried away.”


The Waratahs’ four tries to one win over the Sharks, finalists last year, sends them into the championship match in strong form and in a confident mood.


Their record against the Crusaders is poor, however.


They have won only once in eight matches in Christchurch since 1996, lost the 2005 final in the South Island city, went down 34-7 in the sixth round of this season and last beat the Crusaders in 2004.


“I think when we came away from there a couple of months ago, we were really disappointed with how we finished the game,” Waratahs captain Phil Waugh said.


“I still feel as though we haven’t played our best football, so there’s no better time than next week to put it together.”


The Crusaders shrugged off a recent run of poor form, and last week’s upset loss to the Highlanders, to crush the Hurricanes in front of a crowd of barely 16,000 at AMI Stadium, which is currently being rebuilt.


Tries by All Blacks fullback Leon MacDonald on either side of halftime broke the resistance of the Hurricanes who spent almost 90 percent of the first half in defense.


MacDonald’s first try set the Crusaders to halftime with a 13-8 lead and his second in the 12th minute of the second half made the Crusaders’s win a formality.


The Hurricanes scored two tries in the last three minutes to make the result look more respectable.


“We went in at halftime and had spent a lot of energy as well,” McCaw said.


“But they had defended a fair bit so we had to punish them early in the second half. We had a huge amount of territory in their 22 and we had to make it pay in the end. I think we did.”


— Semifinal summaries:


Crusaders 33 (Leon MacDonald 2, Kieran Read tries; Daniel Carter 3 conversions, 4 penalties),
Hurricanes 22 (Zac Guilford, Jeremy Thrush, Neemia Tialata tries; Piri Weepu penalty; Jimmy Gopperth conversion; Jerry Collins conversion). HT, 13-8.


Waratahs 28 (Kurtley Beale, Luke Burgess, Rob Horne, Lote Tuqiri tries, Beale conversion, penalty, drop goal),
Sharks 13 (Craig Burden try, Rory Kockott conversion, Francois Steyn penalty, Ruan Pienaar drop goal). HT, 15-6.


Sapa-AP – Super14.com

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