Canterbury full-back Colin Slade was central to proceedings in Christchurch as his side survived a late surge from Wellington to hold on for a dramatic 28-20 win and claim their second consecutive Air New Zealand Cup title. Two first-half tries from Slade helped give the Red and Blacks a deserved 18-3 lead at half-time, but when the 22-year-old Crusader was sin-binned in the 66th minute, it allowed the Lions a passage back into the contest.
Wellington fought back to 25-20 after good work from centre Alapati Leuia and a late try from Scott Fuglistaller, but they could not turn their dominance into points and were forced to walk away from their fourth consecutive final without the silver vase. The Lions coach Jamie Joseph admitted the best team won. "There's obvious disappointment from not having won the game. But the guys are fairly pragmatic that they did all they could in terms of the effort, particularly in the second half," he said. "We lost to a better team and that's always hard to take initially, but rugby players understand that someone has to win and someone has to lose."
"We didn't actually do anything wrong we just couldn't get into the game. I take my hat off to Canterbury for that." In England Dick Muir, South Africa's assistant coach, said he had never seen the World Champions get beaten so badly after their shock 22-17 defeat by Leicester. Muir is leading the Springboks until Pete de Villiers arrives ahead of their Tests with France, Italy and Ireland, but he said his plan had not worked at Welford Road.
"We came over here with an experiment and perhaps it didn't come off as planned," he said. "I don't think I've ever seen [a South Africa pack] as bad as that, especially from a coaching perspective. We were given a bit of a lesson at the scrums." Leicester head coach Richard Cockerill said he was delighted with his side's display after coming in for criticism for risking his players ahead of their LV=Cup clash with Leeds tomorrow. "Maybe South Africa are a little shell-shocked that club rugby can be like that," said Cockerill. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org