The opening match of the Super XV’s Round 13 pits the up-and-down Crusaders against the cellar-dwelling Reds, with the eighth-placed Crusaders striving to stay in contention for the finals and the Reds way out of the reckoning.
Flashback Friday revisits a more prosperous time for both sides – the 2011 final at Suncorp Stadium. The long-suffering Reds finished top of the table with Will Genia, Quade Cooper, Digby Ioane, Radike Samo and captain James Horwill in vintage form, while the perennial contender Crusaders – featuring current veteran stars Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and Kieran Read, along with code-switching superstars Sonny Bill Williams and Brad Thorn – finished third, and both breezed into the Brisbane-hosted decider.
It was a final for the ages. The game was set against the backdrop of natural disasters that tragically hit both regions earlier in the season: the Queensland floods in January, and the Christchurch earthquake in March. The Crusaders were directly impacted by having to play the entire season away from their home city, instead playing at centres such as Timaru and Nelson.
The Crusaders led 10-6 at halftime thanks to a clever kick-and-chase try by Carter. But the Reds rallied after the break, Ioane and Genia scoring unforgettable individual tries; halfback Genia’s five-pointer, in particular, will be remembered as one of the greatest in the competition’s history, breaking a 13-all deadlock with just 12 minutes remaining.
The Reds clinched their maiden title with an epic 18-13 triumph in front of a 52,113-strong crowd of baying Queenslanders…and more than a few Kiwis. Few matches in Super Rugby history have produced the drama or emotion of the 2011 final.