SYDNEY, Australia, Mar 24 – Canterbury Crusaders coach Scott Robertson has said his team will bounce back after the New South Wales Waratahs ended their 19-game winning streak, refusing to blame the defeat on an emotional and traumatic week.
The reigning Super Rugby champions lost 20-12 on Saturday in their first match since a white supremacist shot dead 50 people at two mosques in their home city of Christchurch.
The attacks deeply affected the Crusaders hard, with their match in the immediate aftermath cancelled so the players could return home to their communities.
In Sydney on Saturday they were subdued, starting slowly and uncharacteristically making a series of handling errors on a wet evening.
“We were really desperate to play well and represent our people and show how much we care,” Robertson told reporters.
“You could see how hard we worked but we dropped enough ball for the whole season. That’s out of our system now.
“It was a tough week but we’re Crusaders, we don’t make excuses. We just needed to be better in a lot of parts of the game.”
Wearing armbands with the words “United 15-03-2019”, marking the day of the tragedy, the Crusaders lacked early focus and gave away two tries within the opening 11 minutes which proved decisive.
Skipper Sam Whitelock also refused to blame the mosque attacks for their below-par performance. “I wouldn’t use anything as an excuse,” he said.
“Far too many dropped balls and that’s just releasing the pressure valve for these guys (Waratahs) and they took those opportunities and put us back in our own half and let us made mistakes.
“Obviously it hasn’t been a great week,” he added. “But everyone’s stayed pretty tight and that’s what we’re trying to do as a team, and we’re doing that as a city too.”
Ahead of the game, both teams ran onto the field at the same time before linking arms in a minute’s silence, with ties between the sides running deep.
Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson grew up in Christchurch and played alongside Robertson for the Crusaders, while his assistant Simon Cron is another who hails from the city.
“I think that transcends sport, to put that (rivalry) aside to think of others in far worse situations,” Gibson said of the tribute.
The Crusaders finally being toppled has thrown the southern hemisphere competition wide open, with Gibson saying his team, who have three wins from five, took a lot of confidence from beating the best.
“We’ve dropped a couple of close games but we’re in the fight and it’s pleasing,” he said.
“It’s confidence building no doubt, particularly around those areas we’ve spoken about. We scrapped and you’ve got to against a team like that.”
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