Waratahs beat Crusaders 33-32 in Super Rugby final
SYDNEY (AP) — Bernard Foley kicked his seventh penalty in the closing moments of a thrilling match as the New South Wales Waratahs edged the Crusaders 33-32 to win their first-ever Super Rugby title on Saturday.
Center Adam Ashley-Cooper scored a try in each half and Foley kicked a conversion to go with his seven penalties — a record for a Super Rugby final — as the Waratahs denied the Crusaders their eighth title.
Colin Slade scored his sixth penalty of the match in the 76th minute to put the Crusaders ahead 32-30, but Foley’s final attempt from long range crept over the crossbar to give the home team victory in front a crowd of 61,000.
New South Wales had been to the finals twice before, losing to the Crusaders on both occasions.
“I thought that last kick went under, but it went over and I was ecstatic. To seal out the game was monumental,” Waratahs coach Michael Foley said.
New South Wales surprised the Crusaders by racing out to a 14-0 lead in the first 14 minutes, with Ashley-Cooper scoring his first try in the fourth minute and Foley kicking three penalties.
Making matters worse, the Crusaders then lost Dan Carter to an ankle injury in the 25th minute, dealing a heavy blow to their title chances. Slade took over the goalkicking responsibilities, however, and helped the team claw their way back into the match.
Foley’s fifth penalty gave the Waratahs a 20-13 lead at halftime, but the Crusaders leveled the score at 20-20 when former Waratahs winger Nemani Nadolo scored a try in the 42nd minute and took their first lead of the match six minutes later when Slade kicked his third penalty.
The lead then switched hands several times over the final 30 minutes as each side tried to wear down the other with tireless defense.
Ashley-Cooper, who had never previously won a title in his 10-year Super Rugby career, scored his second try to give New South Wales a 30-26 lead in the 62nd minute, but the Crusaders fought back again to go up 32-30 with Slade’s final penalty of the match.
Foley’s final goal, however, kicked from 45 meters out and from a difficult angle, barely cleared the bar to clinch the match for the Waratahs. He made eight of his 10 goal attempts in the match — five of six before halftime, and three of four in the second period.
“It was no surprise to us they came back as they did,” Michael Foley said. “We knew they would. They’re a class outfit. You know you’ve done a good job to beat a team like that in the final.”
The Crusaders were devastated by the narrow loss. Todd Blackadder led the team to three championships in as many years as their captain from 1998-2000, but remains without a title after six years as head coach.
“Right now you’re feeling absolutely gutted, aren’t you? And our whole team is,” Crusaders captain Kieran Read said. “We didn’t come here for this result, but you’ve got to give full credit to New South Wales.
“To give them a lead like we did, they’re going to be very hard to run down.”
New South Wales 33 (Adam Ashley-Cooper 2 tries; Bernard Foley conversion, 7 penalties), Crusaders 32 (Matt Todd, Nemani Nadolo tries; Dan Carter conversion; Colin Slade conversion, 6 penalties). HT: 20-13.