It was the ‘game of my life’ – Garden-Bachop

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It completed something of a personal comeback from injury frustrations while also contributing to a team effort that defied all the odds.

 

The 21-year-old went through back surgery on a bulged disc around 16 months ago and got back to playing only to dislocate his elbow in the second round of last season's Mitre 10 Cup and miss the rest of the competition.

 

Being able to play again was a dream come true, he said.

 

Scoring Friday's final try, which put the issue beyond doubt, had been a bonus.

 

"I was so stoked, it sort of put the nail in the coffin with everything that had happened in the week leading up to the game. It was a good feeling to get a little more respect for our team back, and to right the wrongs that had happened," he said.

 

When they realised towards the end of the game that they were going to win, he said, it had been a great feeling.

 

"We came in real tight and got around each other, and said, 'let's enjoy this next 10 minutes, and close this game out'."

But they had been achieving pre-game milestones much earlier in the contest.

 

"In the first five minutes we showed our intentions and we were celebrating our small victories. Everything that we did well we came together and we got tight, there was a good feeling among the boys," he said.

 

"Thrilled is probably an understatement. It was, probably, the game of my life, really, from all aspects, playing the best team, and we had our best performance of the season so far.

 

"It is important against a team like the Crusaders, you can never give them the sniff. Can't take your foot of the throat, or the throttle," he said.

 

Garden-Bachop said playing fullback was a new challenge, but he added it was an exciting position.

 

"You are a bit more open to both sides of the field," he said.

 

His form and opportunities with the side had exceeded his expectations.

 

Being given a high amount of free licence by coach Tony Brown was something he appreciated.

 

He took confidence from Brown's coaching approach and said it was the reason he enjoyed playing for the Highlanders.

 

His future is undecided. His family base is in Wellington, and he has a year left on his contract with the Highlanders. He said if the opportunity arose, he would be happy to remain with the side for Super Rugby.

 

But normality returns so quickly in Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa. It's another week and this time they face a resurgent Chiefs team on Saturday in Dunedin.

 

The Chiefs were a 'razzy' team, he said. They offered something different from the Crusaders.

 

The Highlanders', and Garden-Bachop's, challenge now was to build on their performance and, especially, on what he called their benchmark performance in Christchurch.

 

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