France v New Zealand, Stade Gerland, Lyon, November 2006
Bar the unquestionable pleasure had at the All Blacks’ World Cup Final win in 2011, this match against Les Bleus in Lyon is the most fun I have ever had at an All Blacks Test. The New Zealand team were on fire this tour. Since the British & Irish Lions at home in 2005, this team of Graham Henry’s was getting better and better, and with respect, the games on this Northern Hemisphere Tour were no threat to them. England had been crushed the week before (see Day 49) and this French team was in for a pasting. The match was in Lyon, a beautiful old city at heart, divided by a river, with enough old Euro-ness to easily entertain some New World tourists. The match was at Stade Gerland, a football ground used by Olympique Lyonnais, and it was a short metro ride. At the ground all the NZ fans were clumped together, behind one goal, probably in the area that would serve away fans at a footy match: across the aisle was a steel cage-like fence separating us from the French fans. The seating was all low, basically moulded seats of a shape like on an old Massey Ferguson tractor, mounted along concrete beams. It was basically a terrace, and once underway we all stood for the game. Now, on this clear and freezing night, some nutter decided to offer the Kiwi crowd a second drinks option besides beer: vin choux, or warmed wine. The result was a boisterous, langered up throng that walked the fine line between unruliness and a near riot for the next two hours. Two rows behind us, Earl Kirton was sitting and he got endless pats on the back and handshakes from all those around him. The cheering of our All Blacks, and the mocking of the French, was boisterous to the extent that I clearly remember Luke McAlister turning around and looking up at us from under our posts while a conversion for a NZ try was being taken at the other end of the pitch – he was pissing himself with laughter. By halftime, les Bleus had been put away. They were characteristically booed off by their own fans. When a bloke by us turned right to mock the French fans about 30 feet away, through the cage, they just shrugged and gave a look of “M’eh. We are merde”. Then the pungent sweet smell of a celebratory joint wafted all around us, and some wag screamed out “Oh, come on… pass it around, Earl!”. The win was utterly convincing so far from the final whistle that everyone just sang songs non-stop. I am convinced to this day that this is where the Exponents/All Blacks tie-on began, organically on the terraces at Lyon, with 4,000 smashed All Black fans bathing in their team’s glory. So, it was French vin choux that Jordan Luck owes a lot of royalties to. After that gaudy ruckus, it was back into town, and drinking the night away on a river boat bar. We’d be back to Lyon for RWC2007 the following year, and on the basis of that night’s Test, we could not wait. The score? Well, it was a drubbing. Just one of those games where we ruled, and the wrong French team got off the bus. We won 47-3, scoring 7 tries and inflicting France’s biggest ever home defeat. Their points were from a solitary drop goal. That equals a very bold, no black, letter L against their name. ‘French Letter’ by Herbs.