A Fairly Good Sporting Moment: The Bledisloe Cup Final Australia V New Zealand, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Australia, 8pm, 20 October 2012

21 Oct

Die hard rugby fans come in all colours, shapes, sizes, and nationalities. I met thirty or so last night at the final of the Bledisloe Cup.

We thought that since the match was a dead rubber (New Zealand already had two of the three games in the bag) that the teams might just go through the motions and the crowd would be lacklustre. Far from it. Suncorp holds 52,500 and there were only a few empty seats. Most seemed to be occupied by very vocal Kiwis. Not really surprising since there are more than half a million Kiwis living in Australia and they take their rugby deadly seriously.

The economics of major sporting finals obey the same rules as any other mega, one-off event. Book early and you’ll have your pick of seats and pay a reasonable rate. Book late, you’ll pay a premium and could end up in the nose bleed section. Book super late, as in two hours before kick off, and you’ll score a bargain. We were in the first category ($85), a good mate, Brian, was in the second ($180), and the bloke next to me, Ray, was in the third ($55). The drawback for Ray was that he could only get a single ticket so his wife had to stay home. As the night wore on I realised Ray was probably quite content with that outcome. Plugged into the radio broadcast of the game he could sledge, swear and chant to his heart’s content and feast his eyes on the women around him.

Our seats were dead centre, a few rows back from the northern goal posts. I’d gone ahead to claim them while Stuart bought our beers and found them occupied by colourfully attired women with floral and beaded head dresses and sporting All Black temporary tattoos. They were part of a large group of thirty Kiwi supporters who were already quite excited and making lots of unintelligible noise. Wot the?

In fits and bursts I pieced together their story. They were Russians from Moscow visiting Australia for two weeks of rugby and tourism. Last year Russia competed in the Rugby World Cup for the first time and although they were eliminated in the first round the sport caught the attention of the Russian public. Russians started following rugby and many became impassioned supporters of the devastatingly brilliant All Blacks who’ve been on a 16 match winning streak this past year.

When I asked the women, ‘Why rugby players?’, I got the same answer as you’d get from a bunch of Aussie females, ‘They’re hot!’. Say no more…

It’s been a while since I’ve witnessed the All Blacks perform their Haka before a match. The Hong Kong Rugby Sevens was the last time. They’ve honed it into a mesmerising display of strength, coordination and aggression. It must be difficult for any opposition team not to be intimidated by it. I’ve loaded a video clip of it for you to see for yourself.

As a match, I don’t think anyone, least of all the players, would claim it was a peak sporting moment. The 18:18 result was achieved by penalty goals. I have no idea why some were awarded. The new rules intended to keep play moving are hard to judge from a distance. We had ‘rolling away’, ‘late to join the scrum’, and many others that were more obscure.

From my vantage point the All Blacks were the better team. Their ball handling and running were far and away superior. The Wallabies seem to have over moisturised, too many missed catches and dropped balls.

My new Russian friend, Clara, was a little disappointed with the result, as she’d come expecting a decisive victory to enable the All Blacks to equal their previous record streak, but it was not to be. We shook hands and wished each other well before going our separate ways. Clara’s the one with flowers in her hair.

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