Where: Albany Stadium
Ref: Andre Watson
When: Good Friday, 735 pm
Score: Blues 22 : Waratahs 20
What a mixed bag this night turned out to be. Being Easter weekend, pretty much everyone leaves Auckland for quieter pastures.... it basically becomes a ghost city for the weekend. So the usual gang of Rugby supporters had all up and left, leaving me scrambling to find company for the game (I eventually haul my American flatmate along - he's always one for getting drunk). Being the staunch Blues supporter that I am, I was determined to go and make sure that they had at least one very loud, very drunk fan in the crowd (well, there'd be me and Blue anyway). I figured that with noone left in Auckland, and the game being played in Albany there would probably be about 5000 at the game. Plenty of time to just stroll up and get a ticket at the gate.
So we get to Albany about an hour before the game, grab a bite, and we're amazed that there appears to be a decent number of people about. In fact, I couldn't bloody believe it - it was almost a sell-out.... and NOONE had pre-bought tickets. What a mess! The bread queues in Russia must be shorter than this! So we join the 60m queue for the north side, bypassing the 100m queue for the family embankment. 10 minutes later, they had run out of tickets and we'd only moved about 10 metres. So a quick about turn, back passed the (now 120m) embankment queue and into the mosh pit for a main stand ticket. When we get to the booth they only have "Deluxe tickets" available for $40. Crap! So we paid them anyway, figuring we'd already wasted long enough - and if the tickets were that expensive they must have been bloody good.
Now, I've never been a fan of the Albany Stadium... in fact I think that its the worst stadium that I've ever been in (and that says a lot given the state of Ericsson stadium). After hauling our asses to the top of the stadium (yes, Deluxe is actually another name for "nosebleed section") we find our "Deluxe" seats allow us to see all of the field (yeah!), the score board (yeah!), Albany under lights (whatever), but not the bloody replay screen!! The stupid curved roof meant that we could see the lower left 3 pixels. Bugger!
We got to our seats just as the game started. The Waratahs seemed to have the possession and the position, but I was into my xth beer by then so that may have just been an illusion. The nerves were really taking their toll... and it didn't help with more yanks sitting next to us asking stupid things like, "why don't they just throw it forward?" and "Does it have to go over the bar?".
Anyway, I'm sure the game would have been really crap to watch on TV (I'll see when I watch the replay later), but with a good crowd behind the Blues it was a great atmosphere to be in. In fact, I'd have to say it was probably the best Blues crowd I've seen a long time (character-wise). And from where we were sitting the noise seemed to get to a good level every time the Blues got the ball. So good work crowd!
Neither team could finish any moves and the half ended 6-3 to the Waratahs. My nerves were building! The Blues hadn't done much in the first half and at times they looked more disorganised than the parking outside the game. The Waratahs backs had shown the ability to butcher "dead cert" tries, so I still knew we were in the game. Down 13-3 and the crowd really started to lift its performance too. The cheers got louder as the crowd got drunker, and the Blues responded with some hard hitting defence.
Referee Notes: Andre had 60 minutes of good game, and then gained the consistency of lumpy custard! In fact I think he had a crap final 20.
The "Thank God" Award": Goes to Ron Cribb. At least three times during the game I would see him and one of the Waratahs coming out of a maul and Cribb cock that arm back to punch, but each time sanity prevailed.
The "Girly Award for pulling hair": Goes to the entire waratahs backline for the amount of "off the ball" jersey pulling - and Andre didn't spot a thing!!!
Anyway 22-20 to the Blues was a good end to the night. Pissed off at Flavell for giving away the penalty that became that last try (and bonus point).
It was then that we found the "Deluxe Lounge" for our post game drinks. So that's why we paid so much...