"Never been prouder as a coach" - Blackadder
Last updated 23:48 04/03/2011
Canterbury rugby icon Todd Blackadder realises a memorable 80 minutes cannot remedy a lifetime of heartache for people in his province, though the Crusaders coach still branded tonight's 33-18 win over the NSW Waratahs as the pinnacle of his coaching career.
Under immense pressure to boost morale in the wake of Christchurch's devastating earthquake - and already responsible for honouring the memory of the Pike River mine victims in this fixture at Trafalgar Park - the Crusaders achieved both aims with a heart-warming performance.
"It's a massive pressure release," he said after surveying an exhausted though elated dressing room.
"You can see it in the sheds right now in the faces of the players.
"I've never been more proud as a coach in my career to walk in there.
"With everything that's been going on ... to get the win for our people, it's just hard to describe.
"It's just a game of rugby, but hopefully the people feel really good and take some pride.
"This is their team. Everyone owns this team, the guys play for our community. We're going to fly our flag very proudly."
The relief was palpable as Blackadder and captain Kieran Read assessed a performance born of adversity and executed with the eyes of the nation upon them.
"There's no doubt they wanted to go out there and put the performance of a lifetime on to the track," said Blackadder.
And although the squad tried to downplay the emotional significance of the third round clash with the Australian conference leaders, the All Blacks No.8 acknowledged the weight of expectation.
"There was no other option than winning really," Read said.
"We're wearing this special jersey for the region, a Crusaders region that have gone through a lot of tough times.
"It's pretty hard to put into words. Hopefully we've done a small part to lift people's spirits."