After The Cup comes more rugby
Alot has happened in the world of sport since my last report six months ago. The Rugby World Cup has been and gone with our mighty All Blacks finally repeating the heroics of the 1987 team.
They were coached by the legendary and now Sir Graham Henry and captained by arguably our greatest captain, Richie Mccaw, with a squad containing a mixture of youth and experience.
It was a close run thing as the All Blacks met France in the final with many pundits and fans predicting an easy win for our boys. But nobody told the French. They came out firing and played their best game of the tournament and almost pulled off one of the greatest upsets in Rugby World Cup history. The atmosphere at the game was incredible, the haka led by Piri Weepu was a sight to behold and the French played their part by walking up to the halfway line and eyeballing the All Blacks.
This was great as it showed the French were ready for the challenge, setting the tone for the whole game showing that ‘‘Les Bleus’’ weren’t just there to make up the numbers.
The first try of the game was scored by the All Blacks off a nice lineout set piece move sending Tony Woodcock through a yawning gap and in for the first try.
We led 5-0 at halftime which was a relief for many Kiwis. Shortly after play resumed Aaron Cruden injured his knee and had to come off.
So the fourth choice first-five Stephen Donald came on to a rousing applause and the hopes of a nation resting on his shoulders.
Minutes later the nation held its collective breath as Stephen Donald stepped up to take a penalty shot at goal and calmly slotted it through the uprights. The French captain Thierry Dusautoir scored a late try making the score 8-7. It was a nervous last few minutes but we held on and as Andy Ellis kicked the ball out you could hear the huge sigh of relief resonating around the country.
World Champions has a nice ring to it doesn’t it?
Along comes summer and with it the cricket season. Longsuffering Black Caps supporters were hoping once again that their team would compete and challenge the big countries. The Black Caps started the season with a two-match test series against Australia on their home patch with a new captain in Ross Taylor hoping to break their 25-year hoodoo against the Aussies. The Black Caps seemed to be making noises about how confident they were leading up to the first test in Brisbane. But during the game it became apparent that we were in over our heads as the Australians completely outclassed us.
The only bright spot for New Zealand was Daniel Vettori and Dean Brownlie’s 100-run partnership which righted the ship and saved us from total humiliation.
Both players got half centuries, Daniel Vettori almost achieving a century. Unfortunately he was too hasty and was run out on 96. Wouldn’t you love to know what was said in the changing room after the game. I know I would, especially whose commitment was queried.
So on to Hobart for the second test; New Zealand as underdogs just as we like it and Australia arrogant as always. The Black Caps won the toss and elected to bat first but the pitch was a bowler’s paradise and we were all out for 150. Brownlie once again standing out with another half century to be the best batter on show for New Zealand. At this point I was more than a little worried because I know the danger of Australia and the score we put up was less then adequate. Surprise Surprise or ‘‘shock shock’’, we bowled them out for less than we got, 136 to be precise. On to our second innings we managed a fairly decent total giving Australia a mark of 230 runs to win the series. Australia were going along quite nicely on the afternoon session on day four finishing at 150 and we’re set up nicely to close out the test match before lunch the next day. But New Zealand fast bowler Doug Bracewell had other ideas, he got a couple of early wickets in the morning session which slowed down the momentum. Eventually Australia were still travelling along at a frenetic pace at this point. I had resigned myself to the fact that we were going to lose and switched the channel. When I flicked it back, in a unbelievable turn of events Bracewell had ripped through the middle order taking three wickets crucially just before lunch.
New Zealand came out extremely energised knowing that the game was within their grasp. It was an exciting finish with Australia needing 20 runs off 10 balls to win and New Zealand needing one wicket. Twice we thought that we had captured the all-important wicket but were foiled by the review system.
As history will tell you we did get the wicket and achieved our first win in Australia since 1986 and also our first test match win over them since 1993. The standout of the second innings was Bracewell with 6 for 40.
It has been a long time since I have written a sports report and it is great to be back in time for the rugby season and the cricket season. I’m one of the people who wait anxiously all summer for the season to start.
The Chiefs start their campaign against the Highlanders on February 25 so I will have a review after the first weekend’s results.