Australia v USA, RWC2011, Westpac Stadium, Wellington, September 2011
It was a bit like Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome at the end of this 80 minutes - 30 blokes came on to the field but only about 23 of them walked off it under their own steam. Although Australia won (convingly) 67-5, this was a clear illustration of the lack of depth Robbie Deans faced as coach; a game that took out 3-4 of his players. After the final whistle he had Anthony Faingaa, Rob Horne and Pat McCabe sharing an ambulance to the hospital. Faingaa was the worst hurt, looking to be out cold in a tackle, but I understood he was up and about soon after. The Eagles tackled all night, but could never get anywhere on attack. From my seat, they were so deep when on attack, the midfield were having to cover 15m just to get back to the line of advantage they had ceded, and that gave Aussie all the time in the world to shut them down. Glad to see Berrick Barnes and Drew Mitchell back - always thought they were both key to Wallaby success, but the Reds’ Super Rugby form and injury seemed to put them in the background. Quade Cooper looked like he wouldn’t even be able to get a kick drum to work, and the Aussies (unlike the Boks) were spraying passes and possible points wide every game… a big time risk in knockout games where their precious space would be shut down. The atmosphere in the Cake Tin was great again. Despite the yellow Wallabies fans’ numbers being high (and bolstered with every empty yellow plastic seat), heaps of USA fans were painted up in red, white and blue .... as were many Kiwis who came off the fence and swallowed their anti-nuclear pride for an hour or two. We experienced nothing but good hearted banter all night, moreso than in the two Bok games we have hosted. It sis a strange contradiction, that at such a high stakes World Cup tournament, crowds seem more relaxed & happy to enjoy up the atmosphere of the special event. All our seated neighbours were happily ranting and laughing all night, and I think the general angle was the usual Famous Kiwi or Famous Aussie Claim Game (seems no one was too keen on taking credit for Russell Crowe, but then ... there is enough of our Rusty to go around). It had been great fun to just bowl up to visiting fans and have a chat so far at the Cup. They all seem to be having a great time, and feel Kiwis are looking out for them, and that is great. A couple of nights before the Australia v USA game, I got a chance to meet up and share a pint or two with Steve aka Nursedude who writes The Nurse Was a Prop blog - he’s a passionate Eagles and rugby fan, and he’s been a long time blog comrade of Ferdy’s and mine (Ruggerblogger). Great guy, and really interesting talking to him about rugby, and life in general, in the States.