Chris holds up a "TRY!" banner, celebrating a Kiwi score at the rugby match. "Try" is the equivalent of a touchdown.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, one of the highlights of our
time in New Zealand was the
rugby test match between Ireland
and New Zealand. The Kiwi team bears the nickname “All
Blacks,” because each player dresses in black from head to toe: black rugby
jersey, black shorts, black sock stretched over their calves, and black
shoes. Sheldon and I joined 45,000 of
our closest New Zealand
friends to watch the two nations scrum on the pitch.
First, the weather stunk.
A miserably cold rain inundated Eden
Park, a quaint stadium on the
outskirts of Auckland
The Sky Tower reflected in the glass of another building.
But we held a pair of (very
reasonably priced) sheltered seats, so nary a drop of rain touched our
Second, the fans, while absolutely rabid about their All
Blacks, are unfailingly polite and civil.
was introduced, the New Zealanders cheered as if their team had taken the
field. No rude cat calls. No hisses or boos. No ugly slanders that would make sailors
blush in shame. (Sports fans from New York, Philadelphia,
should take note.) In fact, when the
Irish national anthem was sung, the words were posted on the video board and
the Kiwis sung along in booming voices.
I kid you not. Of course, when
the New Zealand
anthem was sung, the volume reached deafening proportions, but I was still
amazed at the genuine friendliness exhibited by the home team.
An upward view of the engineering and architectural marvel, Auckland's Sky Tower.
Of course, such an amiable atmosphere can be short
lived. As soon as the anthems were sung,
the All Blacks divided themselves into three rows on one side of midfield. The Irish stood directly opposite of the home
team. Between the two stood the referee,
a South African, and his two-man crew, both Aussies. Once everyone was in place, the stage
production began. The All Blacks, in
perfect unison, proceeded to do a haka,
a Maori dance often accompanied by song.
This particular Maori haka was
obviously an attempt to intimidate the Irish squad. The All Blacks grunted and chanted in
syllables a Western ear would call primeval or tribal. Simultaneously the team clapped and slapped
and moved side-to-side with gesticulations that would have made me go back to
the locker room. The Irish, though,
decided to play.
For those who have never attended a rugby match, I highly
The elevator shaft of the Sky Tower.
Not only was the on-field
action full of excitement (and drama, since the Irish gave a sporting comeback
that fell short), but listening to the flowing commentary of the Kiwi fans is a
Unless you can differentiate your typical
scrum from a maul or a ruck, then we would advise a primer on rugby before
The video board flashed with the
oddest penalty names; Sheldon and I just clapped when everyone else did.
We knew that a “try” was the American
football equivalent of a touchdown, but it was worth only 5 points.
The conversion kick for extra points netted
two instead of our one, and is called a “con.”
also has penalty kicks that are
like field goals valued at three points.
Thus, the scores emulate our gridiron.
In this case, the All Blacks bested the Irish squad, 27-17.
Prior to the evening’s festivities, the three of us
journeyed into the heart of Auckland
for a walking tour.
A view from the Sky Tower.
The weather turned
from clear to rainy to snowy to rainy and then to clear again… and back to
But we trudged on, brave troopers
that we are.
Our first destination was
the Auckland Sky Tower
The tower, standing just slightly taller than
the Eiffel Tower
, is the preeminent landmark in Auckland
The views from the top, even in the mix of
precipitation, were stunning.
precipice, you realize that Auckland
is indeed built on top of forty-eight separate cinder cones – i.e., volcanoes.
None is currently active, and a decent
percentage is extinct… which leaves a handful as dormant, sleeping giants that
could erupt tomorrow, ten years from now, or never again.
Sheldon standing on a tree on the grounds of the War Memorial.
Aucklanders live with that possibility every
day, but it does not seem to affect the city.
From the Sky Tower, we walked down to the wharf for a better
understanding of why Auckland is dubbed the City
of Sails. Plenty of sailboats could be seen despite the
weather, which makes me wonder just how many hundreds flood the harbor and
waterways on a clear, sunny day. On my
next trip to Auckland, I intend to go on a
cruise through the inlets to get a better feel for New Zealand’s largest city.
Our final stop before the scrum that evening was the War
Memorial atop Auckland Domain. (Domain
is the noun commonly used in place of “park.”)
Like the Aussies, the Kiwis believe wholeheartedly in recognizing those
who took up arms in defense of their country… or, in the parlance etched on
most monuments: “… for the glory of God, the King, and the Empire.
Auckland's Ferry Terminal.
Or, depending on the monarch on the throne at
the time, it might say “Queen.”
memorial was no different, a marble and granite parthenon perched atop a hill
In this case, though, the memorial was much more than a
remembrance of the dead and those who valiantly served. The building was a veritable Kiwi museum and
had one of the most outstanding and gripping displays on volcanoes. Miller, Sheldon, and I spent almost an hour
in that exhibit alone!
One more day in New Zealand…