Af­ter The Cup comes more rugby

Matamata Chronicle - - News/sport - By STEVEN SA­MUELS

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.

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