History maker Robertson hails Crusaders defence
History maker Robertson hails Crusaders defenceSHARE
The new champions held out against a ferocious late comeback to win 25-17 in Johannesburg against a home side reduced to 14 men by Albertus Smith's red card just before half-time.
Loose forward Smith was sent off for playing Crusaders fullback David Havili in the air.
Crusaders were leading 12-3 at that stage, thanks to some massive defence on the gainline, but the final briefly threatened to be one-way traffic as they extended that advantage to 25-3 after 52 minutes.
But the Lions roared back with two converted tries, before being denied by the stout Crusaders defence.
Victory for the New Zealand team means Robertson is the first person to have won Super Rugby finals as a player and a coach.
The former loose forward was part of three title runs between 1998 and 2001, with the Crusaders now having claimed an eighth crown, five more than any other team, but their first since 2008.
They are also the only team to win a final overseas, beating the Brumbies in Canberra in 2000, and now becoming the first team to cross the Indian Ocean and claim the title.
"That was an incredible game of rugby between two desperate teams. We gave the ball back to a 14-man side and by the end our guys were out on their feet," Robertson said.
"It showed just how hard it is to win here. Our defence won us the championship, there is no doubt.
"We got our points early because we know no team can chase the Lions in the last 20 minutes.
"We are the only team to do it, it is what the Crusaders do, we work hard for the opportunity to create history.
"To do it in this incredible Ellis Park cauldron just adds another part of history.
"And every time people ask us about not having won the trophy for a while – well now we won't hear that question for a while."
The Crusaders coach said he sympathised with Smith for being sent off in such a crucial game.
"The process was correct, Jaco Peyper [referee] was clear and calm. But it is a shame it had to happen in a final and especially for Kwagga Smith, who has had an unbelievable season.
"It probably did affect the outcome to an extent, and it was a shame for the Lions because they have had some season," Robertson added.
The coach praised his forwards for nullifying the Lions' line-out drive threat, from which they have scored many tries this season.
"We know the maul has delivered many tries for the Lions and to not concede one this evening was testament to the work of forwards coach Jason Ryan," he said.
"That was a key point of the game because the Lions are a big team off that platform."