Tag Archives: #LionsTour

A Night Out at The Chiefs, Redwood Trees and the prospect of torrential rain! 

 

I have to start with The Hask – I’ve always had a soft spot for the big lunk, and to watch him play last night, to put his body on the line time and time again, until he could hardly walk from the pitch, well, I still think he’s awesome. It’s his attitude as well – he didn’t think he’d be on tour, and when Billy V got taken out, his attitude was ‘I’ll carry the bags, help in training, do whatever it takes to make the team successful’. He was out on the pitch for the Maori game, tackling, working as part of an opposing scrum, anything to be involved. Not for him sitting in the stand in a suit. Love it.

We spent the day before the Chiefs game walking in the redwood forests, marvelling at the size of these giants and learning about forestry in NZ. Obviously, like most settlers do, the early people cut down the forests for houses, to build their towns, and for fuel. As the forests disappeared, a bit too rapidly, they decided to investigate the best way to replace them, and planted trees from all around the world, to see what did best. Weirdly the redwoods in California are equi distant from the equator to those in NZ but they have found they grow differently due to the thermal heat and lots more rain, so the NZ redwoods grow faster and their wood is softer. Got very geeky about trees yesterday!

Haskell is the solid, tree-like heart of this Lions team – he knows he’s unlikely to start a Test, or even be on the bench, but his attitude last night shows me why we might, just might, sneak a win against the All Blacks.

We watched the Chiefs game in Hamilton from half way up the temporary stand they’d built at one end, surrounded by men in kilts who, I have to say, were the most miserable, silent, unhappy lot we have yet encountered on this trip. They didn’t cheer, or shout, or even stand up when things got exciting, just drank their ‘stubbies’ and muttered to each other. No idea what their problem was as there were Scottish players out on the pitch! The after-party in Biddy Mulligan’s bar was a lot more fun and the Guinness was, apparently, very drinkable.

Just as an idea of the quantities of beer being supped: 8000 pints of beer, 4000 stubbies, plus whatever incidentals like wine etc, were consumed in ONE bar during opening hours, in Rotorua, on the day of the Maori All Blacks game. There were a lot of bars in that town and the local paper reckoned NZ$3.5m was spent on food and drink alone that weekend.

As the Test gets closer, the hordes of red increase. Accommodation for last night’s game was a bit hard to find, as Hamilton isn’t huge, and we left our Sheffield Tigers friends trying to persuade a taxi driver to take them 30 mins out of town to a farmhouse they were staying at. We had a nice steady walk back to our hotel – booked over 12 months ago. Being geeky has its advantages sometimes.

The discussions on who to pick for the first Test dominate every conversation out here today. I’ve written down our sections and will see how close we both get to the final team. We will soon find out what Gatland has in store – but with the weather turning increasingly wet and windy over the next few days, it looks like a forwards orientated game, with the ball firmly up the jumper, that could be what is needed to get a win.

Onwards to Auckland for us, following a convoy of camper vans and singing happy songs, and hoping to meet fans of a similar frame of mind, not more miserable ones in kilts!

(Apologies for no images – very dodgy wifi means technology is temperamental tonight!)

Going to have a bad head tomorrow…..

Crowd going mental

Crowd going mental

Team with trophy right in front of us

Team with trophy right in front of us

Even managed to get nails to match the shirt - shame they didn't have a Lion too.

Even managed to get nails to match the shirt – shame they didn’t have a Lion too.

Do I care? Not a lot. What a night – it flew by so fast and I cannot wait to see it all again sometime when I’m sober. So much happened that was just unbelievable, from the first try just down in front of us, to the last awesome runs from Roberts and Sexton. Where did 41 points come from!

I have no voice, sore feet from being squashed on a train for over an hour, and a bad headache approaching very rapidly but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Incredible stadium, fabulous atmosphere and history made right in front of us. I hope the guys have gallons to drink tonight and then some time off to recover as they all put their bodies on the line tonight. The tackling was scarily fierce, and the defence held for so long whatever they threw at us. Credit to Gatland and all the coaching squad as most of us would have happily settle for a one point win, but to stuff them like that, awesome. Lots left before the end and certainly took some stick from Lions fans on their way out. Nice feeling.

Tomorrow will be fun, walking round and just smiling at all the other idiots still dressed in red – a Lions family that we know stretched back all the way to home, as well as many other parts of the world. Brill.

 

The last hurdle

Got closer to the wallabies but not the ones wearing yellow shirts.

Got closer to the wallabies but not the ones wearing yellow shirts.

Frog mouthed parrot/owl

Frog mouthed parrot/owl

Nearest I got to a decent whale picture!

Nearest I got to a decent whale picture!

Saturday morning, bright sunshine, cold wind and Lions fans everywhere you look. Been asked at least twice if we have a spare ticket as there seems to be a shortage for some reason! The city is heaving with fans – yesterday we were down at Circular Quay and you could hardly move for the red shirts everywhere. Al spent a quiet afternoon wandering around The Rocks and the Botanical Gardens while I went off out to see to look for whales – and yes that is the correct spelling – although by the accents there is half the principality out here.

For those who don’t know about Al’s ability to turn green on even a boat trip round the bay, that is why I went whale watching on my own and I think it was for the best as by the time we retuned to Sydney almost half the boat were sick or looked like they could be at any moment. There is justice in the world though as the 2 fat – and I have to admit, English – muppets who brought their lunch of fried fish and chips on board were among the first to throw up! Serves them right. To say it was a bit bumpy once out at sea was a slight understatement. The crew reckoned the drips and troughs were going from about 4 to 12 feet and when we actually stopped to watch the 2 huge humpback whales we found, the boat sort of went sideways and we just rolled along next to them.

My pictures are rubbish to say the least, you need a big camera and fast shutter speed to really get a good shot but I have a copy of one of the whales almost completely out of the water that I got from the professional guys with us so even if I didn’t take it, I did see it! Worth every penny of the trip and for 2 or more hours, juts following these whales was an awesome experience.

We got better pictures at the wildlife park outside Sydney, probably helped by the fact that half the animals were so tame they wandered around next to you We saw kangaroo, wallaby, lots of koalas and a Tasmanian Devil. The wombats were really cute and a dingo puppy was another one that nearly came back in the case but the most impressive for me were the birds. I had no idea of the range of birds over here, such colours and variety, especially the owls and hawks. Top one – the frog mouthed owl/parrot! Got a picture of that which I hope will attach.

Spent a good day out at Manly Beach too, I liked it better than Bondi and the surf was huge, so much so they wouldn’t let people in to swim, although the life guards were kept busy removing Brits who thought it didn’t apply to them. Some of the waves were touching 15 to 20 feet and the crashes the surfers took were scary. The day finished beautifully watching a pod of about 20 dolphins just playing in the surf with the surfers. Would have liked to have joined them but think I may have got squished by the waves.

So a quiet Saturday morning at a craft market in Paddington, very up market area with a stunning bookshop/cafe spread over 3 or 4 floors of an old house. For those who know me, the surprise is I didn’t buy any books, although I did note down a few titles I may just have to follow up later! Some tea and cakes sorted for an afternoon snack before we head off to the Olympic Park and the nail biting end to all this. Opinion here split down the line about who will win, on both sides, but it will be a hell of a game. Talking to some of the old hands at the last Legends game on Thursday night, opinion seems to favour the Aussies just because the Lions haven’t really shown anything great in attack in the 2 previous tests and the BOD issue keeps coming up as being a psychological advantage for them too.  Don’t buy that but do feel we will miss OConnell.

Hopefully tomorrow I will have no voice, a hangover and not much sleep from partying after a Lions win. If we lose, it has still been an epic trip and such a lot of fun to be part of the experience. Here’s hoping for the best……..

Sidney – and Bondi – in the sun.

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We arrived in a thunderstorm that lit up the city as we circled over the Bridge and Harbour, with a rainbow, huge black clouds and flashes of lightning. Looked amazing but I had no way of getting a picture! It is a lot warmer here so the fans are breaking out the flip flops and shorts. On the beach at Bondi yesterday there were quite a few evening braving the sea, though by the look of pink skins and freckled noses there would be some sore bodies by the end of the day.

Rumours here about the team and what Gatland will do for Saturday are flying about. Everyone you talk to has an opinion but the strongest rumour we have heard, mainly from the Welsh I have to say, is that Phillips refused to sit on the bench last weekend and is being sent home! Not been picked up in he press anywhere so no idea of how true it is. The other one, Gagarin from a Welsh guy who claimed to have inside knowledge via ‘back home’ is that Roberts is definitely fit enough to play and will start. That makes me happy. Corbisero also been seen training, but then so has Paul OConnell, complete with arm in plaster – the man is mental.

Lots of people have done what the team have done, headed back up the coast for some sun and relaxation so Sidney still feels like only e advance party are here. We are staying in China town in another awesome apartment – cant believe the standard of what we have for the price. So far there are about half a dozen others here, also gob smacked after some less then beautiful digs in Melbourne for some of them. The bars looked a bit busier last night but Happy Hour still lasts from 3 to at least 7 in most which helps wi the beer fund.

We spent Monday climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge – really glad we did it as the views were stunning and since it is winter we got part of the sunset as well as we were quite late going up. Takes about 3 hours and some bits are definitely a bit tight for guys the size of Al – and the suits they make you wear as well – again, bit on the tight side!

Bondi beach was fun, the ferries are great entertainment although when it gets a bit lumpy Al prefers the bus or train, and the food again has been amazing – especially where we are staying as there is every kind of Asian cuisine, lots of it and not expensive, which is a real surprise as the prices in some places are eye watering. Hotel rooms for Saturday in the posh places are up around $1000 and tickets on the resale sites for the game are staring around the same price and heading rapidly upwards! Everyone wants to be there and I cannot imagine what it feels like for the players to be sitting on a beach and just hoping they get the nod today that they are playing. Team announced here at 12 so just before that, here is our view, sort of agreed. Adam Jones, Hibberd for me, Youngs for Al, Corbisero, Alun Wyne Jones, Gray, Tipuric for me, Lydiate for Al, OBrien, Foleatu.

For the backs Al would have Phillips at 9 if he’s here, I would have Murray, Sexton at 10 for me though Al goes for Farrell, Roberts and Davies in the centre, then North and Bowe on wings for Al, but I would want Zebo and North, and we agree on Halfpenny at the back. On the bench, Croft, BOD, Tuilagi, plus the usual front row suspects! Sure we have missed someone out ewe think is important but this game will continue all week as everyone seems to have a few definite places and the others just and to the banter! We will see at 12 today.

Off to cuddle koalas and kangaroos today if we can negotiate a train and a couple of buses out to the Blue Mountains. Rejected the zoo down in Darling Harbour due to the poor conditions – late last night a poor koala still stuck up a tree in the entrance being gawped at by tourists – and it wasn’t even a eucalyptus so no idea what it was eating. Not nice but I was restrained from expressing my opinion in person. May resort to trip advisor!

photo attached of Bondi – and our awesome apartment!

Surf at Bondi

Surf at Bondi

I still love Leigh Halfpenny.

And they had both had a lot to drink!

And they had both had a lot to drink!

The lad was gutted, as the cameras focused on the Aussie guys and Leigh was just in tears, with several of his team mates eventually coming over to him. Also Jenks came across and sort of tried to make him feel better but I don’t think anyone could. It really wasn’t his fault – it was right on the edge of his range and the roof being closed was making the ball do some weird things. None of them seemed able to get any distance on the ball from hand and we also blamed the mini helicopter taking aerial shots for creating a down draught – any excuse really!

As for the rest of the game – I spent the last 20 minutes just feeling sick as it just felt like we were going backwards and stuck in our 22 with no idea how to get out. The line out wasn’t good, no idea what was going off at the scrums as we were in the third tier and they all looked a long way off. North, Bowe and Halfpenny were good, so was Heaslip and Warburton but I still haven’t seen much from BOD or Sexton and Jonathan Davies looked lost at times. I think they are beatable next Saturday but they need to mix it up a bit, bring in Zebo off the bench, put OBrien on from the start and please let Jamie Roberts be fit!

The stadium was awesome, the noise made my ears hurt and yet again I lost my voice. Don’t think that was helped by the pre match Lions Den, with a Q and A with Guscott – very smooth – and then 4 or 5 songs from the Manic Street Preachers! I managed to get right to the front by the stage and they were great – apparently scheduled their entire tour round the games! There were 3,500 people in there and they had brought in the equivalent of 14 pints of beer per person plus wine, and it was FREE up to the start of the game! And the food – Al was in heaven, pizza, chicken something and rice, fish and chips, pies and something with noodles and they didn’t run out of anything. Fabulous – just wish we’d been back there celebrating a win at the end.

So we are now in Sydney and its pouring down! At the airport in Melbourne we met up with the Lions Legends getting on a plane to the coast for a few days of ‘training’ before the final Legends game on Thursday  night. Chatting to Mark Winters about it and they reckon even more will turn up for a game as it seems loads of ex players are turning up this week. We also met Roger Uttley and Peter Winterbottom who are cycling from Melbourne to Sydney for the Walking with the Wounded charity. Think they have a huge challenge there. Over 600 miles in 7 days and Mr Winterbottom admits he has not really got fit for it

Now we have free Internet again I will try and sort the millions of photos and put a link to them on here. Some may be interested! As for Saturday, part of me can’t wait but there is also the dread that these guys have been battered and bruised and it has been a long season with no real rest for them and so many are carrying injuries etc. etc. but I know if the fans can will them to it, then we will manage to beat the yellow hordes and finish this tour properly.

From the 25th floor in our posh new apartment, with aaw incredible view of Sydney in the rain – here’s to Saturday and a Lions victory – they deserve it and especially Mr Halfpenny!

‘At their age there’s a lot more room on the pitch’

Al running people out at the MCG!

Al running people out at the MCG!

 

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BIL Legends BIL Legends

 

‘Mad Dog’ Moody, Dan Scarborough and loads more – BIL Legends versus Classic Wallabies. One of the best nights out I have ever had. All for charity -Save the Children – and about 3000 people found the game in the park where they have the Grand Prix. The 2 commentators were awesome, funny, clever and we were trying to do a deal to swap them for Brian Moore and Stuart Barnes but they reckoned that the tv companies couldn’t afford their bar bill. Apart from the quote above, the other one that had us spluttering in the beer – and there was a lot of beer – was ‘ and the front row are bending over and sucking in hard’!

attached is a sort of team list – still not sure who exactly played but we stuffed them, even without the idiot on the scoreboard adding points for the Wallabies that they didn’t get. Jamie Noon had a pretty good game as well but Scarborough was awesome – still very quick and Charvis still loves to hit a ruck and do damage to people! And we had a Welsh Male Voice Choir!

Tonight we are at the Conference Centre for a pre test Q and A with Bill Robertson, Richard Hill, Justin Harrison and Donal Lenihan with free booze and food! Good so far and the formal bit hasn’t started yet!

Spent most of today at the MCG with a stadium tour and their Museum of Sport. Great day out and an awesome stadium even though they play ‘footy’ there – Aussie Rules so it looks a bit weird especially as they have to have lights on most of the time to make the grass grow!

Bill Robertson very funny and totally anti-English so tonight we are Welsh! And very politically incorrect so far!

Lots of new faces here today and 6 huge guys checking into a room next to us – designed for 2! Hope they know each other well. Hotel rooms at a premium and no one can find a spare ticket as it’s sold out and they are going for a fortune. Can’t wait for tomorrow night and I just hope it gets to 2 nil so we can enjoy Sydney!

Come on you Lions!

Step 1 – need to do better

End of the first test

Well, it’s Sunday morning here – just – and we’ve walked and ferried back from Suncorp and can’t believe we managed to win that one! It was an awesome game for all the wrong reasons and I can’t describe how it felt before and after that final penalty. Sick. And then huge relief.

They spent ages huddled together at the end and I’m sure ‘could do better’ was being said by many. BOD gave away 2 daft penalties early on, Israel was missed by North and Corbisero and Halfpenny and if they’d had a kicker…..

Croft played well and so did our kid – both Jones boys actually – and OConnell and Youngs were good too. The rest need to improve as Australia will feel robbed – their fans certainly did. Great atmosphere, great banter amongst the crowd, and we sat next to Jamie Kilbane’s old science teacher so discussed Mr Bester with him! Small world.

I’ve lost my voice, Al is making no comment on that, the free buses and ferries meant we got back just before midnight so overall a good day but seriously worried about the next test and there’s no sign of Jamie Roberts being fit.

Some pictures below of the Suncorp before the game – no chance of pictures while they are playing as I can’t keep still and take them!

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Brisbane in the rain – just like home.

Woke today to pouring rain and it’s cold as well. Hasn’t stopped the hardier supporters braving it in shorts and the shirt! So many about that they must have been arriving all night and it feels like we are taking over. Every one you talk to has an opinion, about the selection, about the Australian coach and the mistakes he is making – and that’s from the Australian fans. Bars have been heaving all day and they reckon even more will arrive at the last minute tomorrow as the game doesn’t kick off here until 8 pm.

The airport was amazing – a choir singing rugby songs, plus a guy with bagpipes for Flower of Scotland and suddenly there is a face in front of us we recognised. Weird feeling to suddenly see someone you have only previously seen on tv, and then his mate joined him and it got even more confusing as we knew him too. Then the brain gets into gear – George Gregan and Jason Robinson! Such nice guys, happy to chat and sign autographs – part of the HSBC sponsorship package and they were spending a few hours at the airport saying hi to people and thanking them for coming on tour. Made our day.

Brisbane is a beautiful city, even in the rain! Lots of great places for food, and beer, and little boats that take you up and down the river for

What a welcome at Brisbane airport! Plus a choir and a man playing bagpipes - this trip just gets weirder and better!

What a welcome at Brisbane airport! Plus a choir and a man playing bagpipes – this trip just gets weirder and better!

. Makes getting from place to place really easy. There is real excitement building here, with just a few hours to go, and even the Australians reckon we have the best chance for years of winning this thing. Talk in the local press seems to focus on taking out BOD and he seems to be the one they fear. Up front the chat favours the Lions – the scrum certainly, but still some concerns over the line out. Their new guy, Israel, has had quite a build up and the commentators reckon he could be difficult to stop. Rugby League background apparently.

We don’t leave here until Monday – flights got expensive on Sunday as everyone wants to move on, or head to the beach, so we fly out a day later. Means we can get to an Aussie Rules game on Sunday afternoon.. Should be interesting and we get to see The Gabba as part of it. Just hope we are seeing it after watching the Lions win!

Why do they do this!

We arrive at the airport to be offered HUGE amounts of HK dollars to be bumped off the flight to Oz as it is seriously overbooked. Why does this happen when we really do have to be there?   it never happens when an extra day to wait would be ok, and for a moment we were tempted, especially when it turned out that it wasn’t one amount but 2 lots of the squiggles with lots of noughts…… But the apartment is booked and we need to be there to claim it or we will have nowhere to stay so someone else will get all the cash!

As for last night – not a lot to say really apart from the guys in the bar agreed that Barritt and Twelvetrees really didn’t need to have travelled, Williams was unlucky and Wade needs a lot more work on defence before he tackles this level again. Good when the subs came on, but by then it was really too late. So by the morning we will be in Brisbane, the sun looks like it will be shining and it will be slightly less than the 36 degrees here in HK. Going to try and get to the training ground and get some photos there, if we can find it! The shirt will finally get worn again – no way in the heat and humidity here but once we get there, Roth on tour starts in earnest. Roll on Saturday and a win for the Lions!