Sunday, November 15, 2009
Yes, we know; we're supposed to have retired from blogging. But do you REALLY think we would let the All Whites' magnificent performance from last night pass without comment? Of course not; especially when we were at the match, and have the husky voice this morning to prove it!
We attended our first rugby test in 1971 - the third test against the Lions at Athletic Park. Since then, we've probably watched the All Blacks play at least 25 tests, including the 1987 RWC final at Auckland. But never, never before have we experienced anything quite like what we experienced at Wellington last night. The atmosphere was electric - nuclear powered electric to boot. The crowd bought in to the "White-Out" theme, and the Ring of Fire glistened white come kick-off time. The singing and chanting was at times deafening, especially in the White Noise Zone, where we had deliberately chosen to go. Our ears were still buzzing this morning! Our seats were great, not that we used them - we stood, from the moemnt we arrived in the RoF to the moment we left. It was special.
With all the hype and pressure, the match itself could have been a let-down. It wasn't; it matched the occasion, and way more. From the time that Bahrain was awarded its penalty early in the second half, it was heart-in-the-mouth stuff, right until the final whistle. And the All Whites were magnificent. Chris Killen ran until he could run no more. Rory Fallon should have had two goals; denied by a magnificent reflex save. Leo Bertos ran at the Bahrain defence all night, and delivered a perfect corner for Fallon to score. Ben Sigmund and Ivan Vicelich were strong defensively.
But to us there were two special heroes. Ryan Nelsen is Captain Fantastic. His work-rate is strong, and he marshalled the Kiwi defence all night. He was a collosus. And Mark Paston - not only did he save a penalty ( a poorly taken one, but he stopped it cleanly nonetheless), but he made a hugely important save just before half-time, and just before Fallon scored. Had the All Whites gone to half-time a goal down, the result might have been very different.
We could say more, but we'll resist the urge. Suffice to say that last night will forever be one of our most special sporting memories, and we are so glad we got in early (before the away leg) to get our tickets. Because whenever this match is talked about in the future (and it will be talked about, believe you me!), we will be able to say "We were there". Well done All Whites - you did the nation proud!
PS - for anyone who may have been shocked when we, along with thousands of others removed our shirt at 80 minutes exposing an ample, white abdomen, our apologies. It wasn't personal; it's football!