The stadium DJ at the Hurricanes game last night had a sense of humour. After a couple of minor handbags sessions, tempers got a bit frayed, with Mr Marler, Mr Haskell and Mr Cole fronting up to a few of the Hurricanes pack. The faces appeared on the big screen and the DJ set off with a few bars of the Beatles – “All you need is love….” The crowd sang along and even the players had smiles on their faces, although a few threats were still being made for those with the lip reading skills to follow.
The game looked to be ours, right up until the yellow card, and even then we thought we might just steal it at the end with a drop goal. Players were again out on their feet at the end, and I’m sure the debate about using/not using the bench players will be discussed back at home as it is here! The pundits here this morning are saying Lawes and Henderson should be in the test squad, but Lawes looked like he’d taken a knock. Of the others, North came out for the second half with his leg heavily strapped around the hamstring. He did a sound job at centre, and looked to be getting involved more than he did when on the wing in earlier games. We only found out Halfpenny was playing when we reached the stadium, and he had another sound game, with some lovely attacking runs. Let’s not mention the dropped high ball – it was only the one.It’s a wonderful stadium – called the ‘cake tin’ by the locals, and the support for the Hurricanes was some of the most passionate we have seen. Loads of kids in the crowd, thousands of flags and lots of singing and chanting. It’s a passionate rugby city, as we found out on a visit to Wellington Football Club – nothing to do with soccer, all to do with rugby. They’re called The Axemen, and their clubhouse was stuffed with memorabilia, photos, and plaques, now with a Rotherham Rugby one added to their collection. We are bringing one of their shields home to go in our clubhouse, and maybe some of their players and supporters might find their way across one day.
The city, like everywhere we have been so far, has been warm and welcoming, with glorious sunshine every day so far. The locals tell us it won’t last! The forecast for the 2nd Test on Saturday is for rain. I can’t even begin to figure out if that is a good or bad thing as whatever we throw at the ABs, they seem to have an answer for it. We have a morning match to attend first though, up at the Jerry Collins Stadium, in Poruira, where the North Ladies team is playing against local rivals. We met several of the team at the dinner on Tuesday and can’t wait to see them play.
As for the rest of the sightseeing in Windy Welly, their Te Papa museum really is one of the best I have ever been to, sitting on the waterfront and full of Maori treasures and fascinating stuff about volcanoes and earthquakes. I’m trying not to think about the huge fault line running just underneath the city!
Up in the hills Zealandia is a conservation area, a huge valley they are taking back to wilderness, and it feels just like stepping into a Jurassic Park film set. We only explored a tiny part of the valley, but is is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. Weird Rotherham connections happened again there too; chatting to a Wellington resident as we watched the Kaka parrots figure out how to raid a bird feeder designed to keep them out, we discovered her son was a rugby coach at Clontarf, in Ireland. He arrived soon after, having been off hiking way up the valley, only to tell us he was a mate of Phil Werahiko, and had been to Rotherham and remembered Craig West as being a great bloke! Another conversation, with a guy in the car park as we were leaving, and we find out that the 88 year old hiker (he looked much younger than that) was also connected to Rotherham, as he worked at Templeborough Steelworks before emigrating in the late 1970’s. Strange connections everywhere!
Today we’re a heading off to the wine country outside the city, and if the weather stays clear tonight, up to the observatory on the top of the big hill to, do a bit of star gazing. I can recognise the Southern Cross but that’s about it, so hoping to learn a bit more through a proper telescope.
This really is the trip of a lifetime, and if you can ever get the cash and time together to do it, then all I can say is that you will be blown away by the landscape, the wildlife, and especially the people. 2 Test matches left for us, a lot more travelling and I wonder how many more people we will meet with connections back to home!