Mon, May 24, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Nucifora gets no respect

AP , CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA

Owen Finegan, left and George Smith, right, of the Brumbies, tackle Crusaders flanker Richie McCaw in Canberra, Saturday. The Brumbies won the Super 12 championship by defeating the Crusaders 47-38.

PHOTO: AFP

While professional sport often sees coaches fired or hired based on performance, the ACT Brumbies' David Nucifora was in a unique position going into the Super 12 rugby final against Canterbury.

Regardless of the result, Nucifora would finish the match without a job after being told midway through the season that his contract would not be renewed.

On Saturday, Nucifora became Super 12's most successful unemployed coach following the Brumbies' 47-38 victory over the Crusaders at Canberra Stadium.

Nucifora led the Brumbies to a first-place finish, six points head of the Crusaders, in the round-robin portion of the annual tournament.

The Brumbies beat the Waikato Chiefs 32-17 in the semifinals then began the final against another New Zealand side, the Crusaders, in frenetic fashion.

The Brumbies built a 33-0 lead in the opening 20 minutes, ensuring Nucifora would have a 2004 championship to add to his resume.

"That was the most amazing 20 minutes of football I've ever seen," Nucifora said. "You wouldn't even have dreamed of having a start in a big match like that, and I was pinching myself watching it.

"We may have let in 40 points in the end, but who cares?"

While Nucifora can now celebrate, his future is less clear with no concrete offers on the table.

"I've got nothing solid, nothing to keep the bank manager happy," said Nucifora. "I'll worry about these things in the next couple of weeks, but right now, I'll just enjoy the occasion."

The Brumbies had won the Super 12 title only once in four previous finals attempts, twice losing to the Crusaders, including a one-point loss in 2000 in Canberra.

Crusaders captain Reuben Thorne said his side was slow at the outset.

Scorers

* ACT Brumbies: 47 (Mark Gerrard 3, Joe Roff 2, Jeremy Paul, Matt Giteau tries; Roff 6 conversions)

* Canterbury Crusaders 38 (Richie McCaw, Aaron Mauger, Brad Thorn, Chris King, Casey Laulala, Daniel Carter tries; Daniel Carter 3, Andrew Mehrtens conversion)


"We had a shocker of a start and against a quality team like this there's no way most sides would ever come back," said Thorne.

The Brumbies will lose four senior players next year, including veteran fullback Joe Roff. Roff scored two tries, the last giving him the record for the most tries in Super 12 history with 57.

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