Wales v New Zealand, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, November 2005
The first game of the 2005 November Tour to the Northern Hemisphere, and the first match of four in the All Blacks targeted ‘Grand Slam’ - achieved when a touring team beats all four opponents on a UK & Ireland tour (England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland). Audacious? Not at all. This was a superb All Black team. A team that had wiped the floor clean 3-0 with a touring British & Irish Lions only months before. Consider in 2014, that as I write this, the subs bench for this game included Richie McCaw, Ma’a Nonu, Tony Woodcock. The captain? Oooh aaah, Tana Umaga. Anyhoo, this game was sold out, we had no chance of getting tickets by conventional means so we jumped on board a Kiwi tour company’s bandwagon - bus travel, pre-match, game ticket, post-match… and a free t-shirt all included, five coach loads of us. It all fell spectacularly apart. Right from departure at 7am in Shepherd’s Bush, where & when we were getting our tickets kept changing. By the time we got to the Glamorgan Cricket Club for pre-match drinks, it was it was looking doubtful. Our mates in town who had got their tickets through conventional channels were already settling in to the pubs in town - we had to leave them to get ours. Gradually rumours started circulating - there were no tickets. The shonky bastard travel agent had taken money up front ff over 200 All Black fans, and hoped to get to Cardiff and meet dodgy geezers to scalp tickets returned from Welsh rugby club members. It was a scam. There were no tickets. As kick-off loomed it got nasty, he was hiding, and when these wide boy touts did show with a handful of tickets they got set upon and threatened by irate AB fans. We decided to bail. If there was no ticket, we needed to get to a pub. As we ran from the GCC, a near riot was underway; a police chopper was circling overhead, and mounted police were approaching. We ran as fast as we could through the Botanical Gardens, back to town, but we were never going to mak town, so we dived in to the first pub we saw - Y Mochn Du, ‘The Black Pig’. This was a Welsh-speaking pub (which explained why we found the commentary on the telly difficult to undserstand), full of passionate Dragons fans (is there really any other kind?)… but when they heard how we had been ripped off they were horrified, and at pains to apologise for a bad experience on what should have been such a grand day. They shouted us drinks, introduced us round, one guy was even a BBC Wales reporter and he later rang Fi for comment - she was on the radio next morning. They were all lovely. You rock, Y Mochn Du! We sent them a thank you postcard when we got back to London. In the end we won comfortably, 41-3. Dan Carter gave another masterclass, and Rico Gear got a hat-trick of tries. The shitty finale to the day was having to all get back on the agency’s bus to travel home again. It took weeks of group emails and threats and visits to his place of business to get our money back. I am not sure everyone did, only the most annoyingly persistent like us. What a wanker - can’t believe he was a Kiwi. The ticket in the photograph? Well, it was given to me by a mate in the pub later - an ironic souvenir. From now on it was official ticket purchasing, all the way. I wonder what it’s like having 200 drunken All Black fans wanting to kill you? No wonder that dude was hiding. All he had to do was be honest so much earlier and we might have been able to scalp some tickets. Oh, well. Here’s one of Wales’ greatest bands, The Super Furry Animals with ‘If You Don’t Want Me to Destroy You’.