Crusaders snatch victory
But it was still a shock when on the Saturday afternoon final a late try by wing James Kerr, a draft player from Auckland, gave the Crusaders a 20-13 win. In many ways the Crusaders outsmarted the Blues, particularly with the contrasting use of substitutes.
Crusaders coach Wayne Smith made shrewd use of his bench in what was still something of an innovation in the game. Henry, on the other hand held his replacements back, calculating that with the score 13-all for much of the second spell extra time might be needed.
Still, the Blues might have won the final and many a Blues supporter remained convinced that a series of attacking scrums in the second spell should have resulted in a penalty try from referee Paddy O’Brien.
Although the final in 1998 resulted in a surprise defeat to the Crusaders, few thought then that the Blues’ successes in the next dozen or so years would be so meagre.