New Zealand v France, RWC2007 Quarter Final, Cardiff, October 2007
It took 24 hours before I calmed down. At the final whistle, all I wanted to do was put a foot through one of Millenium Stadium’s plethora of urinals. It started to surface with 25 mins to go – that nagging, sinking feeling that the pendulum had swung, and the game was slipping from the All Blacks. France showed a lot of heart, they were backed by incredibly vocal support all night. Again we had great seats - we could see Rodney So'oialo’s dreads strain as the French forwards were pulling them on the deck. And we were close enough that we all saw Michalak’s forward pass (as did Francois Pelous’ Mere, Pere & Wife who were next to us) right in front of us, but no one with a whistle or a flag did. That was the nail in the coffin, or Henry’s wrong rub of the green. Fact is, we came up short (no Plan B ... again?), and it could have just as easily happened in the semi or the final had we got through. Ah, it is all history now, and in fact the loss is now a part of All Black canon; now apparently essential to developing the steel we needed to win in RWC2011. It was a long day of build up. Ours was the second quarter final of the day, so we had watched Australia lose to England at Y Mochn Du/The Black Pig (initially cause for much cocky cheering that we'd now wallop the Poms in the semi-final… the one we never made). This was the pub we sought refuge in in 2005 (see Day 33), and the thank you postcard we sent them afterwards was still on display behind the bar! So, our game did not start until evening which made for a long day of milling about and drinking, and actually dragging the anticipation out to the extent that the mood darkened a little before kick-off. Whereas France and Scotland had been afternoon games, this late start killed the atmosphere… and no city wants tens of thousands of bored, pissed (later f*cking angry) Kiwis lurking about. Cardiff just felt less carnival-like, or maybe just a little too familiar. Probably all the wasted New Zealanders - but after the game it went from carnival to just plain Carnage. I just felt sorry for all the people coming over from NZ on tours for the knockout stages (my Mum included) who wouldn’t be watching their own team now .... they scalped the tickets to rich City Boys! If there was a silver lining, it was a cash one for us because our package guaranteed us a refund of the semi final we did not make. So, voila ... Xmas in Morocco was paid for. It is a shame we lost. And unfortunately, Cardiff is dead to me. It's not the people, but that place is tarnished in my rugby mind as cursed. Never again. Still, the Rugby World Cup was brilliant - it was great to travel to away games, and the vibe at RWC is so much better than normal dour All Black tests - you are part of something bigger. We were determined to be at as many games for RWC2011 in New Zealand when we moved back home in a year. The ending would hopefully be happier.