test match

Auckland Travel Blog

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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 proper.

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 heads.  

Second, the fans, while absolutely rabid about their All Blacks, are unfailingly polite and civil.  When Ireland 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, and Boston 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 recommend it.

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 hoot, too.   Unless you can differentiate your typical scrum from a maul or a ruck, then we would advise a primer on rugby before going.  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.”  Rugby 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 rainy.  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 in Paris, is the preeminent landmark in Auckland’s skyline.  The views from the top, even in the mix of precipitation, were stunning.  From the 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.”  This memorial was no different, a marble and granite parthenon perched atop a hill overlooking Auckland.    

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

Chris

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Chris holds up a TRY! banner, ce…
Chris holds up a "TRY!" banner, c…
The Sky Tower reflected in the gla…
The Sky Tower reflected in the gl…
An upward view of the engineering …
An upward view of the engineering…
The elevator shaft of the Sky Towe…
The elevator shaft of the Sky Tow…
A view from the Sky Tower.
A view from the Sky Tower.
Sheldon standing on a tree on the …
Sheldon standing on a tree on the…
Aucklands Ferry Terminal.
Auckland's Ferry Terminal.
The stained glass ceiling of the W…
The stained glass ceiling of the …
The clock tower at the University …
The clock tower at the University…
The two sides line up for the nati…
The two sides line up for the nat…
Sheldon at Eden Park before the ru…
Sheldon at Eden Park before the r…
A view directly down from the Sky …
A view directly down from the Sky…
Yes, we saw Cars one evening in …
Yes, we saw "Cars" one evening in…
Auckland
photo by: Fulla