Rugby - New Zealand Expects!

Mike and Liz Downing
Tue 27 Sep 2011 10:57
Rugby has taken over New Zealand. Flags of the nations taking part are every where you go and many of the bars and restaurants are showing the games on big screens. Rugby is the national sport and the nation is taking great pride in NZ hosting the World Cup and even greater pride in the All Blacks position as the No.1 team in the World. As a result there is of course a great expectation that they will win, and, although few will admit it, a great fear that they might not. They do appear to have the best team by some way and it will be a surprise if they don't win. Sky has almost a monopoly on showing live games. The Maori channel is the only terrestrial station showing all the games, but most are delayed, i.e. shown later in the day or the next day. However, they are showing 1 or 2 of the bigger games a week  (usually involving the All Blacks). So we've been seeing a lot of Rugby - walking into town to see the England games live at the Crown and Badger and seeing the other games on the Maori channel with our £17 portable aerial, bought specially for the World Cup!
But on Sunday it was the real thing - a trip to Auckland to see Fiji v Samoa at NZ's equivalent to Twickenham, Eden Park. It involved a 2 1/2 hour drive to the outskirts of Auckland, a 45 minute special supporters train and 2 supporters buses to get to the ground, but we made it with 30 minutes to spare before the 15.30 kick-off. It was our first rugby international and with a sell-out crowd of 62,000, quite an experience! Even the cold wind and occasional rain (and most of it is not under cover!) didn't dampen the spirits of the crowd which delighted in frequent Mexican waves. We decided to drive back via Hamilton as although it's longer, the road is better, and stopped there to swap over the driving. Pulling into a McDonald's to get a drink and make the change over, we discovered they had Sky on a big screen and the Scotland v Argentina game was just about to start. Never before has a McFlurry and hot chocolate lasted so long - 1 3/4 hrs! On the final whistle it was back on the road to Tauranga, arriving just after midnight, all rugby'd out. 
In between games work has continued on the boat. All the preparation work needed before antifouling, so a lot of scraping, wet sanding, filling and more sanding. And when we want a change, it's cleaning and polishing the topsides. At times like these she seems a much bigger boat! The clocks went forward here on Sunday morning so if it's not too cold (and it has been - with a biting wind at times) we have longer evenings to get work done. It doesn't get dark now until about 19.45 and we've gone from being 11 hours ahead of the UK to 12 hours ahead. (When the UK clocks go back in October we'll be 13 hours ahead.)  
The teams warming up before the start.
Cold and wet!
Every one stands for the national anthems lead by the choir between the 2 teams.