CONTRARY TO THE stories emanating from week one, we find Auckland a model of organisation when in match-day mode.
The business district is blocked off from traffic, meaning the leprechaun impersonators are allowed to roam freely.
Marked by a giant oval ball, the fanzone at Queens Wharf consists of a sparsely populated outdoor viewing area and a massive boat shed, converted to be a temporary bar. It’s packed to capacity.
Public transport to the game is free with a match ticket and the craic on board the train is electric as the pre-match goading begins and the Irish haka is perfected.
On arrival at Kingsland Station, we step into the half light. The theatre is provided by street performers; stick-wielding Maori warriors stalk the public like prey and gather for an impromptu war dance. The gold shirts know that they are in enemy territory… a place they found little success in the 80 minutes that counted.
The garden of Eden
As the game found a rhythm, it became apparent that the dominant support was wearing green. A tense first half left us all happy to be still be in the game, but what followed was much more compelling than any scripted theatre.
Our boys were awesome, fantastic, just plain incredible. They left us frozen with emotion. Euphoria hit as we thought Bowe and then Murray had put the icing on the cake, but it didn’t matter one jot.
The final whistle blew, strangers embraced like brothers, Kiwis offered high fives and the gold shirts slumped in disbelief.
It is so far removed from the rat-a-tat-tat that began the day. We are awestruck.
Thank you Mike Ross, thanks BOD, thank you Stephen Ferris and your 27 fearless friends.
This trip is already worth every NZ dollar.