Saturday afternoon at the rugby with a couple of beers. My home life writ large across my vacation, a busman’s holiday. Yet my attendance at the Toll Stadium earlier for the Auckland Blues vs Sydney Waratahs pre-season friendly marked a seminal moment in my travelling life.

I’ve always wanted to watch rugby in New Zealand, one of the heartlands of one of my favourite sports. This mission has now been accomplished.

So what if it was only a friendly (an oxymoron if ever there was one considering the nature of this great sport)? I’ve now seen live rugby in New Zealand. One of the highlights of my last world trip was the Super 15 Semi-Final at Newlands (Cape Town, not Luton, sorry Keith….) between Cape Stormers and the Waratahs, and although today’s match was nowhere near as dramatic or significant as the one I saw in South Africa, it was a great experience nonetheless.

Part of said experience was the company. I inadvertently ended up leading a field trip of rugby virgins from the hostel to their first experience of the proper oval ball game. Two Canadian brothers, an American, an Austrian and a German made up the party, so I was grateful to a Kiwi also lodging there for his assistance in explaining the permutations of the break down and other such complications.

The game itself fizzled into life in the second half after a staid opening period. Inevitably the liberal use of substitutes, as is the norm with friendlies, helped the flow as the Waratahs took the game to the home team in the second half. Trailing 12-7 at the break, three early second half tries all instigated by the arrival of Israel Folau gave the Australian side the advantage with twenty minutes remaining. Both sides scored six tries apiece with Tah’s Tom Kingston running in a hatrick, though following some sustained late pressure it was Peter Saili’s second try that proved to be the difference. The Blues No 8 crashed over in stoppage time to wrap up this confidence booster for his team, 40-36.

So another one ticked off the To-Do List. Still plenty more to achieve not least brewing my own beer, making my own cheese, sleeping with harems of French women, headlining Wembley and watching football in Brazil to name but a few. Today was enjoyable, there is only one rugby team in blue for me though….. Be sure to have one for me at Goldington Road* later, eh chaps?

Come On You Blues indeed.

*Hello Ben, Mark, Nash, Matt M, Dan, Steve, Chris, Matt S, Marcus to name but a few. Sing your hearts out later and here’s to another great weekend’s Six Nations.
Swing low.

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