Whenever the All Blacks come to Wellington, we try to get along to see them. Wales are touring with a three-match test series at the moment, and, having come unstuck in Auckland last week, are in Wellington this weekend. I’d got tickets some months ago when it was first announced.
Another thing that’s happening in Wellington this week, for the first time, is Night Noodle Markets. This is a concept that’s been around in Australia for a while, and even Auckland, but for the first time here in the coolest little capital in the world. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a bunch of restaurants do an open-air stall. As the name implies, it’s mostly Asian-style cookery, “street food” type stuff (although how you’re supposed to eat pho whilst walking down the street is a mystery to me). We thought it would be a good idea to try it out, then walk up to the stadium.
And so, apparently, did everyone else! It was heaving! We joined a queue at Nam D to get some dinner. The queues were all pretty long, with the exception of TJ Katsu, who had the misfortune to receive an unfavourable review that very day in the Dominion Post. After obtaining some Vietnamese spring rolls and garlic & chili chicken, we took a brief side trip to the Tiger beer tent, then walked up to the stadium along with several thousand other people.
Thoroughly Modern Millies that we are, we had our tickets as QR codes on our phones, which you then place under the scanner. I can haz technologies? You bet!
We found our seats, equipped ourselves with some beer, and awaited the introductions, anthems, and haka. Then it was game on. As expected, it was a tough physical match, and there were two injuries in the first half – one of which, Aaron Cruden, turned out be not as serious as first feared, as they spent 10 minutes on the field administering to him before stretchering him off to hospital on a medicart.
Cruden’s injury brought Beauden Barrett to the field earlier than expected, however, and he was soon making an impact on the play. Although the half-time score was even at 10-10, it’s those long bruising encounters where no points are scored that take their toll later in the match. In the second half the All Blacks ripped out and scored three tries in quick succession, then a fourth with no reply. In the final 10 minutes Wales pulled back some of those points – one try as a result of a careless kick, charged down. Barrett hared off down the field after the ball carrier, tackled him, tackled the support player, but was unable to take down the third. “Guys, a little help?” he could’ve reasonably asked. A final run in the last play of the game would’ve been a further try for the All Blacks if Ryan Crotty hadn’t carelessly put his foot down in touch whilst scoring – to be fair, there was a giant Welsh player tackling him at the time.
As it was, the final result probably flattered the Welsh a bit. With the series won, they’ll play again in Dunedin next week, where the ABs will be intent on building their unbeaten test run of 10 matches.