Well, three long, long terms are over and we are ready for the break! Our strange term dates this year are entirely due to the Rugby World Cup which is now coming to a climax. The Final will be played on the penultimate day of the school Spring holidays, the last day being Labour Day – a national holiday in NZ so it will double either as a day of mourning here or a day of celebration! The injury smitten All Blacks are still in it, England have gone home in disgrace their tails between their legs, the Welsh dragon is still roaring and hoping to smite its Gallic cousins, and the Aussies – well they have hung on in there but everyone is hoping that they will be gone by Monday! We will be glued to the TV screen tonight and tomorrow and the Kiwis will either be crying in their beer on Monday morning or clinging to the dream. This little island at the bottom of the world is rugby mad and everyone wants a Welsh victory tonight so that they can avoid their nemesis, the French in the final. But what of the Welsh…?
We went to watch two of their games in Hamilton, the first was against Samoa and the second against Fiji. Samoa put up quite a fight and it was an exciting match to watch. We had standing space in the Green Zone – the cheapest tickets, but having kids means you can get to the front, so we were right on the try line in the corner so saw plenty of action. The atmosphere in the stadium was fantastic – a sea of colour – red, green, blue, yellow, and a cacophony of noise with the famed, but not always tuneful, singing of the Welsh and the enthusiastic chanting of the Samoans. We are not naturally inclined to support the Welsh (apologies to our good Welsh friends and acquaintances) as we have Scottish, Irish and English blood, and even a splash or two of French somewhere back on my maternal side, coursing through our veins. However, in the absence of any of these teams we found ourselves proudly singing along with the Welsh and chanting “Wales, Wales, Wales!” We sang (well laa’d) Land of My Fathers (as we don’t know the words) as loudly as the best of them – it was quite a moving experience! The Samoans performed their Haka which was equally impressive and certainly stilled the stadium for a few moments. End to end stuff, it would have kept us on the edges of our seats if we had had any, but we had plenty of opportunities for cheering and singing “Delilah”! No one seems to know why, but this World Cup we have the toreador’s “Ole” every time any points are scored – it certainly adds to the noise and everybody joins in!
The atmosphere at the stadium at the match against Fiji was just as good although the match was more one-sided. I think most of the crowd would have liked to have seen Fiji score a try as they worked so hard for it and were so close to the line several times. However, the Welsh kept them at bay with some great defending. In the end it was pretty much a whitewash – Wales certainly look good for the Final!
We also went to see the ABs play Japan– that was a definite whitewash – but it was early on in the tournament and everyone just wanted to see the ABs off to a good start. There was a 2 minute silence at the beginning of the match to remember the devastation of the earthquakes suffered by both nations – for a short time the two teams joined in those sad memories. Then the battle lines were drawn as New Zealand performed their Haka and the Japanese stood resolute. Japan fought hard but they were no match for the mighty ABs and despite the whole crowd cheering Japan on every time they got close to the try line they failed to score until close to the end of the game. The crowd really did go wild!