Sat July 10th 7.35pm
Half Time AllBlacks 27 Pacific Islanders 14
Full Time AllBlacks 41 Pacific Islanders 26
You could not have asked for a more better night for Rugby, I thought, as we made our way, via the motorway to Albany. This was my first visit to the " Battle of the Bridge " stomping ground. I felt a bit nervous as I neared the Stadium. Not the usual parking place in mind either. Come to think of it, where am I gonna park I was thinking? To those who have never been there, the Stadium is in an Industrial Estate. And its handy to the motorway. And everyone seems to just abandon their car somewhere on a road or grass verge and hoof it to the game.
I'd left our seat positions up to Mrs Fitzy this time. I did not want to incure her wrath again, after being in the back row at the Scotland vs Samoa game in Wellington. Maybe it was her sick sense of humour, or payback, as we sat in the 2nd to front row, uncovered area of the main stand. Talk about being " right on the pitch". I felt like " give me a black jersey " and I'll run on ....... Well maybe I'll just pose as a Ballboy.
It did seem a bit strange listening to " God defend NZ " and nothing else, but soon the Pacific Islanders were warming to their " War Dance " and the AB's replied with threatening Haka.
I'd hardly built up any nervous tension, and Big Joe had scored in the far corner. From my seat, anything in that corner had to be viewed via the video screen. 5-0, a cracking start. That shut those bongo drums up too. Soon the Heavy weights of the Islanders were rumbling into our corner. Brian ( the Chiropractor) Lima and Inoke Afeaki got their high shots out the way and Referee Dickinson handed out the warnings.
During this spirited play, the AB's had trailed 7-5 and then regained a 10-7 lead. Following a Carter kick into their 25 met zone the Islanders ran the ball back at the AllBlacks and Lauaki broke down the main stand touchline. Xavier Rush lined him up, or so I thought, and was left to polish his boots as he slipped his febble tackle, pass inside to Sivivatu, and its 14-10 to the Islanders. From my close pitch position, I had to give Rush a verbal spray as he slunk back to the posts. Justin Marshall was having a great game. The breaks he made, got the crowd out of their seats. And as he waited for the kickoff from his try, a few of the fans around me reminded him, " u are the man " Justin.
I knew if the AllBlacks could just keep possession for 10 minutes the points would follow and sure enough a try on debut to Rico Gear and the usual barging effort from Kees Mews and the gap widened to 27-14 at half time. I don't know about the kiss Mews gave Daniel Carter as he came up to congratulate him, but would you argue!!
I was expecting, hoping, all the excitement would be in my corner in the 2nd half. What great seats these could be, I thought. Dam Ballboys and TV Camera men were in my line of vision all the time. I spent more time checking the Video screen on my right, and looking nervously at the time clock on the score board on my left. The game was not going to my script. Sivivatu had got a 2nd try, ( I swear the pass was forward ) and Lauaki had done his usual finger wagging skyward as he also dotted down for a try. I'm getting rather sick seeing him do that too. The memory of the Blues/ Chiefs game still comes to mind.
Squashed between these 2 tries, Joe Rokocoko got a 2nd. The lead was only 8 pts and thank god they never had a Dan Carter in their side, as 2 penalties missed their marks......phew. Evans replaced Muliana, so the local boy got a run. Justin was getting a bit ratty towards the Islanders, ( good on him) and he god subbed for " Mad Byron ". The Hitman, Collins, also came on for Chris Jack. The AllBlacks prefered to keep the ball in hand and Kelleher and Collins both made telling runs, but the moves came to nothing.
Finally the clock on my left counted down to relieve my tension and Tana Umaga put a flattering try on the final scoreline to run out winners 41-26. Overall I enjoyed my visit to the old enemies hometrack and recommend it for future trips. I hope the Pacific Highlanders, I mean Islanders, have something left in the tank to smash the Boks with next week too.
PS from Mrs Fitzy : Bring back Doug!!!!