“This is it, this is the big one” my resident sporting masochist kept repeating in the build up to the weekend. I stifle a yawn and feign interest, as this is the person who fills my bowl and knows not to disturb my finely calibrated sleeping routines. To me the idea of mutual arse-sniffing is a distinctly dog-thing, not to be engaged in by 30 self-respecting grown men, under the subtle cover of playing something called Rugby Union. But, on this occasion it seems we are talking the world’s number one all-conquering New Zealand All-Blacks coming to town. I gaze into a mirror and try to remind the unobservant one that the all blacks are always in town… me!
In a failed attempt to avoid all forms of stereo-type I imagine the trophy for this occasion… a startled Welsh ewe being mounted by a triumphalist kiwi. While my in-house hopeless romantic is dreaming of another planet somewhere in a parallel universe, where a Welsh 15 are putting the all-blacks to the sword. However, it is an occasion to behold, as it is not often that a consistently world-beating team swagger into town. As I stroll about the town centre, a mere three hours before kick-off, it is obvious that the forthcoming encounter requires serious preparation, as kiwi’s gather in familiar territory even when on the opposite side of the world.
Not to be out-done in their own back-yard, the locals of Wales put on a display of national pride… otherwise known as the Max Boyces’ version of a boy-band called Boycezone!
Everywhere you walk is accompanied by the deafening silence of plastic glasses, as the overlords of health and safety ensure everyone has fun… but with a strange after-taste in the mouth.
‘What about the match?’ You ask. ‘Who needs a match when you have an excuse to drink yourself stupid all day?’ I wonder. For the record, local expectations were high, and it all begins with the usual New Zealand tradition of the Haka…
The match quickly develops throughout the first half into the unusual rugby combination of a low scoring ‘cracker’, before the home team twice take the lead in the second half, to set up the unlikely prospect of a ‘haha-wacker’!
But we are talking the world’s number one team here; and for all of the expectations as Wales lead with little more than 13 minutes left on the clock, inevitability strikes… with three tries and no further points conceded the scoreline takes on a familiar, but for this match rather unrepresentative, look:
Wales 16 New Zealand 34
My resident optimist searches for a ray of hope in the repeated gloom, and offers a thought that maybe revenge will be sweet in the World Cup in 11 months time. Until we speak again I have been a bewildered Juno, and feel any such optimistic thoughts belong locked away in the bubble from whence they came. Don’t suffer too much disturbed sleep dreaming of the vision of that Welsh ewe!
[With thanks to BBC News Online for images of the Haka].