In the battle between Good and Evil, Good does not always prevail... and so it was at Jade Stadium on 20th October 2000 where Canterbury was defeated by the nasty Wellingtonions. It was a classic battle witnessed by a noisy and enthusiastic Cantab crowd bolstered in number by an impressive number of strangers dressed up like little black and yellow bumblebees.
DH, SG and myself arrived at the stadium early and quickly secured three bottles of the most expensive weasel piss on the planet and a good spot on the bank, halfway down the park. Some crap Auckland band called Tadpole were playing to an indifferent audience and were quickly replaced by a Wellington band Breathe. Strangely, they were positioned on the back of a truck in front of ten people in the new eastern stand. Couldn't really see them or hear them, and didn't really care. Next came Zed! Awesome, and much appreciated by the generally half-cut embankment crowd they were playing in front of. It strikes me as amazing that a school like Cashmere can produce such talent and also spit out the likes of DH!
On to the Game. It is fair to say Canterbury were lucky to stay in touch during the first half. The Lions pretty much mauled us everywhere, and despite our insistence that half the Wellington team and one of the touch judges should have been sent off, they kept scoring tries. In truth it was an uneven contest. 16 men against 14 made the going tough - with Marika "tits for hands" Vunibaka earning himself the Wellingon Lions MVP award for the game.
Cullen scored hell knows how many tries, with most of them disallowed, and Umaga was menacing at Centre. Despite being branded a choker and possibly the worst goal kicker in the world, Holwell kicked pretty damn well, slotting most of his goals and pinning the red and blacks in their half with well placed (to Vunibaka!) tactical kicks.
The Canterbury machine finally put the hammer down with 15 minutes left on the clock and rescued the game from what could have been a fairly savage hammering. In fact they bloody near converted it to a win with two great tries that rocked the Wellingtonions confidence in the last ten. It was a huge effort that set the crowd on fire. The "Canterbury! Canterbury!" chant was near deafening and the atmosphere truly reached fever pitch. With three minutes on the clock, all that was required was a converted try. But it wasn't to be. Despite a storming effort from the forwards, hammering the ball up again and again, it wasn't quite enough. Wellington deservedly won a great contest. Bastards. Wellington 34 - 29 Canterbury.
The Aftermatch Function
Disappointed we had lost, but not distraught, we headed into the big smoke along with 20,000 others in search of real beer. After a quick brew at the Bog, it was on to the Dux in search for a bit more action and another steam or two. While I grabbed a couple of handles, DH and SG found some Wellington supporters at the far end of the garden bar and issued each of them a fatal beating for their sins. That out the way, we got talking to them, and it turned out they weren't bad blokes, even if they were too rude to offer to buy us our beers.
It was great to see so many Lions supporters down for the game and these guys seemed pretty typical of them. They know the game and they know the players. They spout as much crap as any Cantab after a few beers and they love to win. Good on them for coming all the way down and for being so generous in victory. I'm doubtful Cantabrians would have been as gracious. But then, we have a reputation to maintain.
Talking to the Wellington dudes reinforced our feeling that losing to them wasn't such a bad thing. Wellingtonions are dedicated and committed rugby fans - these boys drove down from the Capital that morning, braving a hostile Kaikoura welcome on the way down, to catch the game. They love their rugby, they don't give up on their team, and they deserved some reward. Their team was best on the night, so good on them, and lets hope they don't mind when we kick their arses next year!
Part of the pre-match entertainment was watching people playing with someone elses balls
The Lions kickoff and the match begins.
The Lions boys we met at the Dux. Has DH really got his arm round that guy??