It was, we all knew, going to be a tough match. The All Blacks had defeated Wales and Ireland easily, but England were the winners of the Rugby World Cup, and they would be determined to crush the All Blacks.
It is well known that the All Blacks are looked upon as one of the finest rugby teams in the world. Coach Graham Henry has done a great job of developing an outstanding team.
The All Blacks performed the new Kapa o Pango Haka. It is an inspiring haka, that was written to reflect the mixed nationality of the All Blacks. It is inspiring to watch and if it stirs the determination to win within the All Blacks, then it should certainly do the same to the opposition team. What was sad at this match was that the spectators made so much noise throughout the haka that it could barely be heard. That was disrespectful. If they had quietly listened to and watched the haka they might have enjoyed it. They didn't. Their noise, to me, felt like an insult to our nation, our culture and to the All Blacks.
When the match got underway the first five minutes were very tough for any New Zealander to watch. England scored that first try within five minutes, and converted it perfectly. 7-nil to England. Ouch!
It was a very equally matched battle. The All Blacks found it as difficult to get through the English lines and they did through ours. They shut us down. We shut them down. Many of the three pointers were scored on penalty kicks, but then again that's how a match is often won, on the basis of the other team making errors and giving away penalty kicks.
It was a tough battle to the end, with at least half a dozen players on the field bleeding.
Normally when a player (on either team) does something wrong and deserves to be 'yellow carded' it has been obvious to the television viewers what he did, but in at least two of the cases I did not see what the All Black did to deserve being yellow carded off the field. I do respect, however, that my viewpoint was different to the refs, and I accept his decision.
I will point out that just prior to Tony Woodcock being yellow carded off, he was rucked across the back by an England player. So lets just stop the diatribe about the England team being lily white and virtuous!)
In the last thirty minutes of the match the All Blacks played with only fourteen men. They had to dig deep to find the grit to win the match, but they held it together. England could not beat fourteen All Blacks, let alone fifteen!
What I do take insult with (or perhaps I should be amused) are the comments I read about in the newspaper this morning from Stephen Jones, UK rugby writer:
"...New Zealand were forced to descend into a craven barrage of cheating in the second half, which cost them three men to the sin-bin. If England had been able to summon just the occasional shaft of genius when they were totally dominant throughout the second half, then they would have won with something to spare. (If they were so dominant in the second half, how come they didn't win? Is not the seizing of opportunity the mark of a winning team? If if if if, you can say it till the cows come home. We deal in facts: England lost. The All Blacks won.)
'What they did do was show the way to the rest of the world. The All Blacks were made to look ordinary.' (More on this little gem later...)
'All we neutrals will be fervently applauding a referee who simply refused to buy into that quaint Kiwi notion that only the other lot kill the game.' (Does he seriously expect anyone to believe he was neutral? Abundantly condescending, yes, but neutral?)
And about the Kapa o Pango Haka, 'Sadly, too, this occasion may well have marked the last haka at Twickenham,' Jones wrote. 'New Zealand have now become so impossibly pompous and precious about the whole thing that it is time to end it here and how and allow their blend of Samoans, Fijians and Pakehas to celebrate Maori culture in some other way.' (A Maori war cry was first used prior to a rugby match in 1884. And the haka had been a tradition for a hundred years! It is tradition. It serves to galvanize the All Blacks to action, and it should serve to do that to the opposition as well. Kapa o Pango Haka was written to celebrate the mixed nationally of the All Blacks and it is a beautiful haka to see.)
Mr Jones claims that the All Blacks were made to look ordinary whilst the England team were gallant. Mmmmm, interesting. If that was the case then defeating an 'ordinary team' should have been a walk in the park for the English. If he is to claim that the England team were magnificent, then he must, by definition, accept that only a team equally as magnificent--if not more so--could have defeated them.
The haka has long been a part of an All Black match. We love it. What I, personally, find highly disrespectful, is when spectators do all they can to drown it out. They missed observing Kapa o Pango Haka, and that was only the second time it has ever been performed. Some respect would have been nice. Contrary to Mr Jones pompous remarks, I would invite other nations to perform a cultural tribute prior to their matches, to take some pride in their cultural identity. I am surprised that Mr Jones did not call for the singing of national anthems to be done away with too.
The first time Kapa o Pango Haka was performed here in New Zealand it was rewarded with cheering and celebration. It's a great haka. Our haka tradition goes back a long way...
1884 - A New Zealand team in New South Wales used a Maori war cry to introduce itself to its opponents before each of its matches.
A Sydney newspaper reported: "The sound given in good time and union by 18 pairs of powerful lungs was sometimes tremendous. The NSW men declared it was hardly fair of the visitors to frighten them out of their wits before the game began
1905 - "The Originals," the 1905 All Black team in Britain popularised the "Ka Mate" haka there. They performed it before the famous Welsh test, "The war cry went well," wrote the Lyttelton Times, "And the crowd listened and watched in pleased silence, and thundered their approval at its close.
"Then the Welsh team started their national anthem. Forty thousand Welsh voices caught up the noble strain, and from every comer of the ground rose the deep, swelling, heart-stirring chorus 'Mae hen wlad fy nhadau' The land of my Fathers.
23-19. The All Blacks won. England lost. It was an inspiring battle of two teams who were very equally matched.
I love rugby! And I especially love it when the All Blacks win!