Bledisloe Cup - Game 1
Australia 35 - New Zealand 39
Well, we had a suspicion that something special was on its way when we missed all the buses on the way to the train station in Sydney by about 50m. We commented that we were saving all of our luck for ĎThe Great Testí (as the Aussie papers are now calling it).
The tour (5 guys) had been in town for 3 days by now, and although we had been constantly bombarded with Australian propaganda, we were still loudly confident. The Aussie media didnít think the ABís would score, let alone win the game. There was a hint that they didnít know what was going on when their Friday bledisloe cup lift out (with a big "Holders Keepers" as the title) named Josh Kronfeld in the starting line-up, and accompanied it with a picture of Robin Brooke.
Anyway, we heard that there was going to be a Kiwi beer tent at Homebush, so we made out way out there nice and early... being somewhat sick of the stuff aussies call beer. Quite an impressive place theyíve got out there. Reminds me of Albany, but with about a dozen different stadiums all bigger than Eden park really packed together. Itís sort of in a suburban setting with not much else around.
We arrived in good time to get some throat lubrication before the Haka, but first it was a quick trip over to get a photo of the world cup with the NZ flag. No kiwi beer tent in site, so we headed for the tent with an All Black flag flying from its outskirts. This soon developed into the Kiwi tent with very few Aussie accents to be found.
About 45 minutes until kick-off, so we leave the alcohol tent behind and head for the stadium. The pre-match entertainment was very artsy... they had giant Wallaby and All Black jerseys (long sleeved though Ė the heathens) and pretty music, before they dimmed the lights and started the fireworks - a bit of ĎSlice of Heavení and ĎDown Underí before the anthems and then itís Game On!
Much against my expectation, the Haka was played over the loud speakers. Good on Ďem, and the crowd mostly shut up (although this may have been completely false as I may have been in a trance while chanting the haka). Then came the moment I had not been looking forward to... Waltzing Matilda. Our seat positions proved to be a good spot for this (about half way up the southern wing), and none of the Aussies around us got into it too much. It wasnít very loud at all... I was happier already.
A big thumbs up to the stadium big screens too... one in each corner... two give the score and stats.. the others, the TV feed...
Game on... and Tana...sensing my nerves... decides to give us something to yell about. 89 seconds into the game and the ABís have a try! I couldnít think of a better start... but the ABís could. Quick, give the ball to Jonah they said... who promptly runs down the sideline and sets up Alatini for the try. We couldnít believe it... and neither could the Aussies. Great, after two tries, surely we can make a beer run. Upon sprinting to the bottom of the stairs we hear more kiwi cheering... and an Aussie say ĎI hope that was a replayí. Nope...Cullen you beauty!! Thank god for TVs in the beer queue. A quick penalty to Merhts in the 8th minute and the look on the Aussie faces was priceless!
The Wallaby reply was quick... So quick that I missed it as I was carrying the beer up the stairs. 12 minutes gone and the score was 24-7. This sparked a bit of life back into the crowd, and so began a priceless banter with the 2 blokes in gold behind us.
If I remember correctly, Andre Watson was giving away a few penalties around here and was getting some major jeering from both sides... certainly a crowd favourite! Offers of gold watches were soon made.
Going into the half time break (24-24), and everyone was confident of the win. There was no shutting anyone up as we predicted what was going on in the game. Remarkably, everyone was in good spirits and there was not a harsh word said. None of the banter was directed at people in the stands... just the players and ref. I just wished that the ABís would stop toying with the natives and put them away!
The second half was tighter and two things stood out very clearly for me. I donít believe Andre had such a severe case of disco fever in the second half ... you know, where an arm goes in the air. I havenít seen any stats on the game yet ... so I hope Iím right on that point. The other thing is that the ABís really NEED some lineout practice. I read today that we lost 5 of 12 throws in the game. Clearly not an acceptable level...
Itís extremely stressful it is to be surrounded by cheering Aussies and lose 2 lineouts in a row on defence.
Thank god for Taineís beautiful netball pass to Jonah just before the end.
This was the perfect game to watch (from an AB perspective). Especially as the ABís were only ever down for a couple of minutes before they picked up the game and scored.
And so we have it... 39-35 to the ABís.. One of the best test matches ever staged... and done in front of a record c