Monday, April 30, 2007

Rugby: Crusaders join in party for victors (NZ Herald)

The Crusaders took a Brumbies beating then stood in the Canberra cold for 20 minutes to join in the tributes to their rugby tormentors.

With a combined 361 Super appearances, George Gregan, Stephen Larkham and Jeremy Paul played their last matches for their beloved Brumbies at Canberra Stadium.

All three Wallabies will likely play out their careers in the Northern Hemisphere.

Fittingly, for the Brumbies' script, it ended in a 15-6 win as the crowd of 20,000 stood to applaud the men who helped upstage New South Wales and Queensland to become an Australian rugby force over 11 years.

As the trio made emotional farewell speeches, the Crusaders all remained on the field to listen and applaud. A warm shower and the dreaded recovery ice baths to ease sore muscles had to wait.

"Those three have been a thorn in the sides of a lot of Kiwi players - All Blacks and Super 12/14 teams - over 10 years. They're really good blokes off the field as well," Crusaders captain Richie McCaw said. "All their boys played for them tonight and it was pretty evident how they played.

"Guys like that, you show a bit of respect, and it showed what sort of regard those guys are held in by us staying out there. Everyone wanted to stay out there and I'm pleased we did."

Gregan and Larkham were foundation members in 1996 while Paul made his debut in 1998.
In hindsight, there could only be one result.

Amid fireworks and fanfare, the Eastern Stand was unveiled as the Gregan-Larkham Stand just before kickoff.
Afterwards, Paul wiped away tears when addressing the crowd while Larkham was so emotional he even received a hug from the Brumbies' mascot.

Gregan thanked the Crusaders for remaining on the field to show their respect, but he didn't have the undivided attention of all.

Nearby, his son Max kicked a ball and trotted around like nothing was happening.
"My son's my biggest critic," Gregan said. "I try to teach him it's okay to be selfless but he still blows up at me every time I don't score a try."
--> the Gregan Family


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