In which Bennett completes an item on her New Zealand bucket list
Hand on heart, I am a football girl at heart. Growing up in England and watching Swindon Town for over 10 years does this to you. I do however, like watching other major sporting events when they’re on, the Olympics, The Ashes and Wimbledon, to name a few.
Rugby union is another great British sport which I’ve never really taken much interest in. Granted, I’ll watch the Six Nations as an excuse to drink in the pub, and I remember exactly where I was when England won the Rugby World Cup in 2003 (in a hut on Dartmoor with fellow Scouts, if you wanted to know!), but I’ve never watched a live match before and I don’t really understand the rules. Why can you hear what the referee says on TV? Why does he point to the team who gets the ball, not the team who caused the foul? Why, when the teams throw the ball in touch, do they get it back and throw in where people can catch it?
It may then surprise you, that watching a game involving the All Blacks (the national rugby team of New Zealand), has been high on my to-do list in New Zealand. Two main reasons for this, the first being that they are at the top of the IRB World Rankings and the second, the famous Haka, the Maori war dance which the team always do right before the referee’s whistle to start the match.
So when Mike, Ali, Craig and I heard that the All Blacks were playing England a mere 3 and a half hours away from Queenstown in Dunedin, we knew that we had to go!
The game was the second match in the 3 match Steinlager series. We’d watched the previous week’s game at Eden Park in Auckland in a bar, excited about the week ahead. I’d bought the tickets and hired a car and off we set early in the morning of Saturday 14th June to Dunedin.
First things first, when we got to Dunedin we decided to go and visit the Forsyth Barr Stadium where the match was being held, to find the best parking spot for a quickish getaway afterwards, considering there would be 30,000 people leaving at the same time. We also took advantage of the quiet morning to take photos in front of the sign with our St George’s Cross, which Craig, despite being born in England, refused to touch – that day, he was proclaiming his “kiwiness!”
After finding a suitable parking spot for NZ$3 all day parking, we spent a few hours soaking up the atmosphere (and for my friends, the alcohol – I was the designated driver) in Dunedin itself. Later on, we headed back to the Forsyth Barr stadium for the match with excited anticipation, and newly painted St George’s Crosses on mine and Ali’s faces!
I was really pleased with the Forsyth Barr Stadium, as I’ve been to a few stadiums in my time. It has a kind of bubble roof which keeps out most of the elements, and being fairly small, even though we were in the back row of the Mitre 10 stand (behind one of the goalpost ends) we still had an excellent perspective of everything going on on the pitch.
The entertainment before the match was a choir singing English anthems such as Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory before the main event of the national anthems happened. It’s only the second time I’ve ever sung the national anthem at a sporting event, but still, it gives you chills, although when compared to New Zealand’s national anthem, it seems very short!
After the anthems, it was the moment I had been waiting for.
The legendary Haka. The anticipation was building around the stadium as the All Blacks got into their positions. I cannot tell you how much the hairs stood up all over my body as the following happened. The crowd’s involvement and the sheer determination on the All Blacks’ faces (we could also see them on a large TV screen on the opposite stand) was intense. I still get chills watching and listening to it now.
The game itself was very exciting. Pretty much all of the action happened at our end, including the first try from England within 10 minutes. Obviously this wasn’t so good in the second half as it meant New Zealand were pressing our defence…
I was very pleased with my 18x zoom on my camera (thanks again Grandma and Grandpa for that!) but was outdone by this fellow:
One final moment of excitement which wasn’t even rugby related was the streaker who came on about 10 minutes from the end of the match. He came from the corner we were sat in and made it to the halfway line before being completely poleaxed by the steward who was chasing him.
This led to many radio debates in the following days all across New Zealand about whether the steward had been too rough. In my opinion, you get what you’re given if you commit a crime like this. The steward was also congratulated by the All Blacks at the end of the game whilst everyone was filing out – they all came over and shook his hand!
We lost the game, marginally as we managed to score a try after the 80 minute horn had gone but it had been a great experience.
I’m still not sold on watching rugby week in, week out, but I’m happy to have ticked this item off on my to-do list!