The Rugby World Cup

When it rains, it pours: last week was packed with exciting adventures! The first, and least adventurous, was the Rugby World Cup finals last Sunday. As everyone here knows, the All Blacks (NZ’s national team) won the tournament four years ago in New Zealand. This year, they seemed to have no trouble on their path to the finals again, which were against the Australian Wallabies. Of the other teams in the World Cup, poor England, the host team this year, got knocked out in the group stages and Japan managed a shocking victory against South Africa.

Of course, here it was All Blacks, all the time. With the tournament being held in England, the matches were about 12 hours behind, meaning that the late afternoon games were early morning here. Despite our dislike of waking up early, we decided that we should at least watch the final, which began at 5am NZ time. Luckily, the match was aired on one of the few free-to-air channels that we get on our TV, so all we had to do was set an alarm, make some tea and drag ourselves and the duvet to the couch.

We managed to get up right before the match started so that we could see one of the most iconic parts of an All Blacks match: the haka. The haka is a Maori war cry or challenge, meant to proclaim the warriors’ strength and intimidate opponents. It has been performed by New Zealand teams since the early 1900s and has gone through some iterations, with the most recent being the “Kapa o Pango” (more history here). Several other South Pacific teams also do similar dances from their own cultures, but New Zealand’s haka is the most famous. Here’s the video of the haka from the final:

With the haka complete, the match began. I’ve learned more about rugby since coming to New Zealand (naturally) but M was still helpful in explaining why certain things were happening. The All Blacks seemed to be the better team, but in the first half kept fumbling the ball, which is just as devastating as in American football. However, they managed to score a few field goals with the eventual Man of the Match, Dan Carter. Each time, the camera would zoom in extremely close to his concentrating face:

Extreme close-up!
Like this, but bigger.

The Wallabies also scored a field goal or two, but the All Blacks scored a try (read: touchdown) right before the end of the half. At half time, we got some more tea and leftover Halloween cake while watching the sun rise.

The second half was much more exciting: the Wallabies scored again, bringing them within four points of the All Blacks. If they scored a try, they would be ahead! Happily, Dan Carter stepped up and scored a field goal during regular play: in rugby, all the players are on the field at all times, including the kicker, so when he got the ball he simply kicked it in from where he was before the Australian team could tackle him. This play came as a surprise to everyone and gave the All Blacks the momentum to score again. Though the game seemed close at some points, the All Blacks handily won, making them the first team to win three Rugby World Cups! (To be fair, if Australia had won they would have had that honor instead). By the sounds of cheering, other people in our apartment complex had also been watching the game. We watched the trophy ceremony and celebration then turned off the TV, wondering what to do with the rest of our day!

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