There was a welcomed sense of normality as the nine-time Super Rugby champions returned to Christchurch for the first time since the terror attack of March 15.
The 36-14 victory over the Brumbies was just another step in the healing process.
Many people at the game said it was their first major event they had attended since the 15 March terror attacks.
Some took advantage of the earlier 5.15pm kickoff and the April sunshine which broke through the clouds prior to the opening whistle.
Others just wanted a Crusaders win.
There was a lot of chatter about how many had decided to wear their Crusaders’ clothing as a show of support for the players, the franchise and as a show of solidarity as a community. Not much in the first half was about the action on the field.
Sitting among the season ticket holders, there was quiet defiance that the tragic events of last month would not sway them from voicing their desire to keep the franchise’s name intact.
There were no Crusaders’ horsemen pre-match, not a sword in sight and while many of the ardent fans understood why there was no desire to support a team by any other name than the Crusaders.
Many were resigned to never seeing the Crusaders’ horsemen ever again.
One older gentleman said: “The All Blacks don’t come here anymore so this team is all we have.”
A video message from captain Sam Whitelock explained that this game was going to be different from games in the past and praised the resilience of the sporting community, who are in a temporary stadium which is feeling more and more permanent by the day.
A moment’s silence was observed and a rendition of Dave Dobbyn’s ‘Welcome Home’ in both English and Māori set the tone before the unofficial Crusaders anthem ‘Conquest of Paradise’ took the edge off a clearly sombre mood.
The first half wasn’t the most stellar rugby from the hosts, a 0-7 halftime deficit saw the focus turn away from the field and to questions about the franchise’s future.
“If they change the name, will they let us wear our Crusaders gear?” asked one spectator.
Speculation of new names like Plainsmen and Canterbury United made their way around the seats much like a Mexican Wave during a dull passage of play.
The consensus was that the imagery and logo may need a revamp but changing the name would be a harder sell to those who were paying to watch the team.
The second half produced a performance worthy of the other C word that rugby in the province is known for – clinical.
Two tries to wingers Will Jordan and Sevu Reece had the Crusader’s faithful waxing lyrical about their team.
Comments of what the future held turned to how fantastic Richie Mo’unga was and how the Crusaders had the best Barrett brother, Scott.
In the end, people had seen what they wanted: A dominant Crusaders team entertaining the sports fans of a city that just cannot seem to catch a break.
(Source:Radio New Zealand)