Fans bid Smith farewell

Highlanders great Ben Smith gets a guard of honour from Crusaders players following last night’s...
Highlanders great Ben Smith gets a guard of honour from Crusaders players following last night’s Super Rugby quarterfinal in Christchurch. Smith is heading to France at the end of the year. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
The Ben Smith chapter has ended - not perfectly, but he is still a champion.

The Highlanders gave it their best shot in Christchurch last night against the All Black-stacked Crusaders.

They produced a quality first half, trailing just 17-14 at the break, but in the second half, the Crusaders kicked away to win the Super Rugby quarterfinal 38-14.

Smith, in his 153rd game for the Highlanders, was a class act, as usual, at fullback

and enjoyed a standing ovation from the crowd when he left the field with 10 minutes left.

Yes, you read it right - Crusaders fans applauded an opposing player.

Smith was part of the first try the Highlanders scored and ran the ball up hard. As usual, it was hard to find a mistake in his game.

Others departing, including locks Jackson Hemopo and Tom Franklin, played themselves to a standstill, while Liam Squire showed his usual no regard for his body.

It was a gallant and brave effort from the Highlanders - and there were some bone-shaking hits from both teams - but the Crusaders got the chocolates.

For Smith and the others taking off, it is time to ride off into the sunset.

A new generation of Highlanders is set to take the cape from Smith and company - big jobs, fellas.

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