A last-minute penalty from fly-half Bernard Foley gave the Waratahs a 33-32 win against the Crusaders who played their part in a scintillating final.
The Waratahs came out with all guns blazing at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney to open up a 14 point lead thanks to an Adam Ashley Cooper try and three penalties from Foley. However the Crusaders were vying for a record eighth title – their first in six years and started to flex their muscles and get back in the game.
With a minute to go it looked like the Crusaders would get that eighth title but up stepped Foley to land a penalty just on the edge of his range to give the ‘tah’s a historic victory.
“That was a fully deserved,” said Michael Lynagh.
“The Waratahs have been the best team throughout the year in all facets of play. Michael Cheika has done an amazing job moulding this side together and getting the spirit right, the way they play the game right, getting the bench right – all that sort of thing.
“He has got the right sort of people involved who have all come in and added to the success of the Waratahs.
“It has been a wonderful performance from the Waratahs and what a valiant effort from the Crusaders – my goodness it was in doubt right until the end.
“Myself and Nick (Evans) were looking at that kick and thinking that it was too far out for Foley – but then it is just typical of Foley and the season that he has had that he would kick it. He has had an amazing year.”
Evans was also impressed with the Waratahs and the Harlequins fly-half had high praise for Foley’s match-winning kick.
“It hurts me to say this but I agree with Michael and the best team won the trophy,” said Evans who has starred for both Auckland and the Highlanders in Super Rugby.
“They set the whole competition alight with their attack and their aggressive defence.
“What a kick from Foley – on a kick like that the adrenaline is going but it is important to keep your rhythm and kick like you always kick – if you try extra hard, try and put a bit more into it then you tend to pull it. It was right on his limit but he kept his rhythm and just got it over.
"It was an outstanding performance from Michael hooper too. He plays amazingly well and just seems to appear where the ball is. I was once told that to be a great flanker you need to be at the right place at the right time, Hooper seems to be there all the time. I was impressed with what he said afterwards – just a class act."
Back to the drawing board
The Crusaders have now gone six years without a title and while the pressure will be on Todd Blackadder, Evans says that they will bounce back.
“You saw it on all their faces – they are very disappointed, added Evans.
“They thought they could come over and do a job and get the win. They have not been able to produce a trophy in six years but they will be back. There is a strong culture – not only in the club but in the city too after what they have been through.
“Remember they were last after four rounds but clawed their way back to get into the final. They will look back and will say that they were a minute away from a trophy – unfortunately rugby is an 80 minutes game and they were not able to finish it off.”
The Crusaders disappointment is the Waratahs joy and Lynagh says that the win will give rugby union a huge boost: “There were 60,000 odd people there today and they will all be back for more – it has put Australian rugby union back on the map.”