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Tuesday, 28 May, 2002, 14:25 GMT 15:25 UK
Record run set nerves on edge
The Crusaders celebrate their victory over the Brumbies
The Crusaders secured final victory with two late tries

Winning our fourth Super 12 final was every bit as special as our first - maybe even a little bit more so.

There were two factors that gave our victory over the Brumbies an extra kick.

This was the first time we had played at home in a final and the atmosphere in Christchurch was electric.

And we also made a little piece of history by becoming the first side to win the Super 12 with an unbeaten record.


The longer the run went on, the more nervous I was
Justin Marshall
Crusaders scrum-half
But as well as the elation we felt at the final whistle, there was also more than a little relief.

It's great to have won with an unbeaten record but the longer the run went on, the more nervous I was before each game.

As we got into the knock-out phase I kept thinking how much worse a first defeat would taste if it came now.

In the back of your mind, you are always wondering if today is the day you are going to fall off your game and produce the below-par performance that will bring you defeat.

Happily, that day never came - thanks to this team's attitude and character.

We were probably fortunate to win some of our early games, but we showed pretty good character and resolve to scrape through when we weren't at our best.

That really set up our season. Winning some desperately close ones when we weren't playing well gave us momentum and the belief that we could win under pressure.

Then, when we finally began playing well in the second half of the season, we were really confident of winning.

Canterbury skipper Reuben Thorne will lead the All Blacks
Reuben Thorne will captain the All Blacks
I also think we showed a pretty good attitude throughout, and particularly in the final.

We were thrilled to have a home final at last but we decided that we weren't going to be defensive and use the advantages of the home crowd and the elements on what was a pretty awful day weather-wise.

We decided that the best way to beat the Brumbies was to carry the ball to them.

We used the wind when necessary but mostly we stuck with that plan and we did it pretty well all day.

Carrying out what we had practised made victory all the more satisfying again.

We had to wait for the win, though, because we never felt safe until right at the end when Caleb Ralph's second try gave us a decent cushion.

The Brumbies came back at us in the round robin phase and they would have beaten us in that game but for a drop goal at the end from Aaron Mauger.

We knew they could do the same in the final but we stuck to our guns to make sure we stayed out in front.


The Final

Justin Marshall

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