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Friday, September 30, 2011

Parting Shots From Kiwi-Land

It has been a fantastic trip and a great adventure for me and my wife here in New Zealand. We get on a plane in a couple of hours. I have so much on my mind, that it is difficult to put it into words. This brings to mind the old saying about a picture being worth a thousand words.

With that in mind, here are some random pics from these last two weeks in New Zealand:

Thanks New Zealand. You put on a great show.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Photo Opps From USA-Italy

My wife and I had only been in Nelson, New Zealand for all of 3 hours when, while walking down Trafalgar Street, we came across some young, fit, young men wearing Italian Rugby clothes. I asked them in Italian if they were part of "La Squadra Italiana" the said that they were, and they were nice enough to have a picture taken with a 50 year old American Prop...They could not have been nicer.

Eddie O'Sullivan, the USA Coach, went with a first choice team against Italy. That said, even the most ardent USA fan was going to know that the Eagles were going to be in for a tough time against Italy.

The Good news for the USA was that they were more than competitive in this match. They scored a try...

but the Italian scrum gave the USA fits all night, even scoring a penalty try after persistent Eagle Infringement on the scrum. My wife and I had seats 3 rows from the field in the end zone, so we had a very good look at that penalty try....

The 27-10 win by Nick Mallet's men in blue was a fair result. After the game, the Eagles were able to do a lap of honor, as this was their last game. It was cool to be able to shake hand with all of the players, like USA captain Todd Clever, and to be able to get my picture with the USA Wing, Ngwenya-who did not score a try in this World Cup, but at least has his day job in Biarritz to go back to.

It was a nice crowd at Nelson(14,977 shoe-horned into Trafalgar Park), and it's hard to believe that this was the last match my wife and I will see here at RWC 2011 in New Zealand, but we have had such a great time. Meeting players and getting my pictures taken with some of these rugby players was the cherry on top of what has been a great trip.

Hanging with La Squadra...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Scots, Pumas, and Low Altitude Flying

I knew that going into Sunday nights Argentina-Scotland game that it was going to be a tight game-and that there was going to be some passionate support. I had a chance to meet up with Scotty, a fellow blogger from rugby tips and some of his friends before the game. The number of people wearing kilts and dressed in the sky blue of Argentina was mind-boggling. It made for great viewing before the game even started....
It was a tight contest the whole way. It was raining for most of the game. Neither defense was giving much ground to the other.  Contempomi was having an off night for Argentina with the boot. When Dan Parks hit a drop goal late in the game to put the Scots up 12-6, I thought that Scotland might have just stamped their ticket for a probable quarterfinal with the All Blacks...that was before Gonzalez Amorisino got a ball out wide, and blew past Patterson and Lamont to plant the ball for the try with about 7 minutes left. Contemponi re-adjusted his gun sites to slot home the conversion, putting the Argentines up by a point. Argentina had to defend doggedly as Scotland got deep into Pumas territory-only to have Parks miss a last-gasp, left footed drop goal effort to doom the Scots to a must-win game against England-and even if they beat England, that might not be enough to see them into the quarterfinals. Argentina dodged a bullet and celebrated when Wayne Barnes blew his whistle to end the game...
On Monday, my wife and I took the puddle-jumper otherwise known as Soundsair and flew from Wellington to Nelson, on the South Island. While in the air on a pristine day, we not only saw mountains and blue sea...
I was able to get overhead shots of "The Cake Tin" in Wellington, where I saw USA-Australia and the Pumas-Scotland game, but also Trafalgar Park, in Nelson, where I will see the USA take on Italy on Tuesday, in what will be the Eagles' last match at this Rugby World Cup.

Nelson is nice and sunny-and also has a very large Italian community, so this should be a home game for the Azzurri on Tuesday night. Until then, Ciao...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

As Much Fun You Can Have When Your Team Loses 67-5

USA-Australia was going to be a tough day at the office, no matter what. When Eagles Head Coach Eddie O'Sullivan decided to have 14 new starters to his line up to face the Wallabies, even the most ardent USA supporter knew that an ass-whuppin' was in the offering-particulary in view of the fact that the Wallabies were going to be smarting after last Saturday's loss to Ireland.

The USA showed some heart in the first half. They had several minutes of advantage in the Wallaby end, and were showing a lot of heart. It's true that Australia was nicked up, but with players like Adam Ashley-Cooper, Quade Cooper and Kurtley Beale(Got a Pic of his try) in the Wallaby backline, the Wallabies got out wide with frequency and with devastating results.

JJ Gagiano scored a nice try with a quick move off a 5 meter scrum in the Wallaby zone, but that would be the only time the Yanks would cross the try line.

In spite of the thumping, my wife and I had a great time at the Wellington Stadium, which had very few empty seats. It was a nice ambiance with a lot of fans made up for the occasion:
As much fan as the pre-game festivities were and the energy at the stadium, I think that Sunday's game with Argentina and Scotland is going to be louder and more passionate, given the number of supporters here in Wellington, and with the stakes of the game-the winner will go to the quarterfinals and the loser probably going home. That means no prisoners will be taken on Sunday.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

RWC 2011: United Nations Under an Oval Ball...

When the IRB awarded the 2011 Rugby World Cup to New Zealand, there were more than a few rugby fans who complained that by choosing the home of the All Blacks as the RWC venue, that it would be such an expensive plane ticket, that very few rugby fans would be able, or willing to make the trip. I guess it was understandable when you look at France 2007, geography played a big role in a record number of ticket sales for a Rugby World Cup. France was next to Italy, close to fans from the UK and Ireland, and a common destination for American, Canadian and Japanese Tourists.

On this current trip to Australia and New Zealand, I have spoken to rugby fans from the US, Canada, France, Argentina( A TON of Argies), Italy, Romania, Uruguay, Ireland, Australia, South Africa and the UK.  Add to that, there are a great many people living in New Zealand of Polynesian origin. In walking around Wellington, I have seen a good number of cars flying Fijian, Tongan and Samoan flags.
It has been great talking about rugby with fans from all over the world. Many of whom are very, very curious about the development of rugby in the US, where the participation numbers among high school aged kids and young woman have simply exploded. We are a long way yet from being able to seriously challenge the Tri Nations and Six Nations sides, but improvement is not impossible-just look at how Georgia and Japan have improved in the last 4 years. That said, I do think the Eagles are in for a serious beat-down at the hand of the Wallabies on Friday night.

This trip has had many highlights, but another great thing about this trip has been to finally meet some of my fellow rugby bloggers here in Kiwi-Land. On Thursday night, I was able to meet "Slugso", part of the writing duo with Ferdy at

It was great to have a few beers with him. Tonight, I am going to meet another Kiwi, Scotty, who does I am highly looking forward to meeting him, and Tom, a Canadian I have met via Facebook.

I should also add, that every tourist I have spoken with has had a story to underline just how wonderful of hosts the Kiwis are. At Mac's Bar on Taranaki Wharf, I spoke to a French rugby fan from Paris who spoke of how when he had run out of gas, a helpful Kiwi put him in his car, drove him to the nearest petrol station and drove him back to his car, and waited until the car restarted."That type of thing would never happen in Paris", he said.

The rest of the world might be going to hell in a handcart, but at least among rugby fans here in New Zealand, people seem to be showing what we can be capable of doing, as human beings.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Kiwi Hospitality and the Petone RFC...

My wife and I are staying at a Bed and Breakfast in Lower Hut, near Wellington, New Zealand.

During our short time here in New Zealand, we have both been blown away at what wonderful hosts the Kiwis have been. On Tuesday, any time my wife and I stopped to check our map, there was a helpful Kiwi asking if they could help us out. It is very apparent that the good people of New Zealand are happy that people from far and wide have come to their country to take in this orgy of rugby known as the Rugby World Cup.

As luck would have it, I noticed that the World Masters Rugby Group on Yahoo groups had an invitation from Wayne Smith of the Petone RFC for rugby players and fans to come to their club house to watch Rugby World Cup matches on their cinema sized screen, share friendship and have some beers-well, roughly in that order.

I told my wife about the hosting, and she was fine with checking it out.

I was given a tour of the facility by a club member, where I discovered that the club has an entire museum, which contained an impressive number of pictures of club members who would wear-or are wearing- the iconic All Black Jersey, as well as a treasure trove of memorabilia...

One team photo of a championship teams from the turn of the 20th century was one with a four-legged member of the club at the lower part of the picture.

My wife and I had a great time with the Petone RFC.  It was nice to share some Tui Beers and talk about rugby with the members and other guests-one of whom was from Uruguay visiting New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup. In speaking with a senior member of the club, Barry, he found out that where my wife and I are staying in Lower Hutt was literally only a block away from where he grew up. He was kind enough to give my wife and I a lift from the club to our Bed and Breakfast. It was a kind gesture which did not totally surprise me-this sport and this country are loaded with a ton of class people.

Thanks Petone. You guys are a credit to the sport and your country.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Art of Rugby in Wellington, New Zealand....

My wife and I made it to New Zealand on Monday. We are settled in with our hosts Annette and Lex at their charming house in Lower Hutt, a 15 minute train ride from Wellingon, where the train station is very conveniently close to "The Cake Tin", Wellington's stadium where I will see USA-Australia on Friday, and Argentina-Scotland's key match on Sunday.

The thing that struck me today was the amount of rugby-related art here in Wellington. It went from a photo display by David Match, a photographer who shot pictures of rugby players, from amateur to pro, all over New Zealand...

From there, my wife and I went to the New Zealand Institute of Art, where they had several interesting pieces, including a likeness of Ritchie McCaw done up in toast...
 There were other paintings that I liked, as well...
The Wellington Museum City and Sea has an entire display of iconic pictures from Kiwi photographer Peter Bush's over 40 years of shooting the sport of rugby...
Another place in town had French Artist doing a large team caricature of the All Blacks...
 And in the park near the Wellington City Library, my wife and I found this statue with symbolism that goes beyond rugby, and gets into the forces of nature and humans that make up New Zealand....

It was all enough to make even the most hardened rugby fan smile...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Goodbye Australia

I probably should be commenting on Saturday night's defeat of the Wallabies at the hand of an inspired Irish side. The Wallaby front row had a really rough night at the office against Ireland, and Australia never could get it's running game on track at an Eden Park that sounded more like Croke Park in Dublin. The 15-6 Irish victory made things very interesting for the World Cup brackets and organizers. As things stand, it looks like Ireland will win the group and likely face either Wales or Fiji in the quarterfinals.

The Wallaby loss means that if things go according to plan with the rest of group play, the Aussies should play South Africa in the quarterfinals-with the winner of that match getting a semi-final date with the host All Blacks. All of the sudden, the other side of the bracket looks like it has parted like the Red Sea for England-and Ireland.

As for this rugby fan, my time in Australia has come to a close. My wife and I leave on Monday morning to fly from Melbourne to Wellington.

It has been an amazing last 20 days here in Australia. My wife and I have enjoyed the sights in Melbourne, Sydney and the Alpine area of northern Victoria. We also had a chance to see the Penguin parade at Phillip Island, about an hour from Melbourne. I had never heard of Phillip Island prior to my arrival in Australia, and it was worth the trip. You cannot take pictures of the penguins(park rules), but I can just say the experience was something that I will never forget. 

On my last day here in Australia, my wife and I had a chance to take the tour of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, known to most sport fans as the MCG. One thing people don't know, is that you can get a great view of downtown Melbourne(and the Rod Laver Arena) from the MCG....

For me, the MCG is one of those iconic stadiums, like Yankee Stadium in New York, Wembley Stadium in London and Maracana in Rio. The MCG has been re-done and re-invented many, many times over the years, and has seen events from Aussie Football Finals, top-flight rugby, test cricket, the 1956 Olympics and the 2006 Commonwealth Games. To have had a chance to not only see the MCG, but walk on the field, was pretty amazing....
So on Monday, the great adventure continues...the Missus and I go to Wellington for 7 days, then 3 days in Nelson, back to Welly, then to be continued...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Baa! Ram! Ewe!

While it is true that rugby was the catalyst for this trip to Australia and New Zealand, a tourist cannot live on rugby alone...well, at least a rugby tourist's wife would not be happy if we lived just on rugby alone on this trip.

We went to Sydney for 4 days and 3 nights, where we actually were able to see a performance of the opera, La Boheme.

We went back to my Aunt Kay's place in Myrtleford. She has a friend named Judy nearby who needed a hand sorting out sheep at here place near Milawa. Now for me, some of the earliest documentary films I remember about Australia were documentaries showing the big sheep stations in the outback, where burly guys would sheer sheep in outrageously hot conditions.

Well, yesterday was my chance to do something completely different. I got to help my aunt's friend round up all of her sheep, then sort them out: Rams, female lambs, then the rest. Judy doesn't have any Border Collies, so we had to use ATV's to round the sheep up into the pens and then sort them out. It was a lot of work,  and I had to learn on the fly how not to spook the sheep so that they would go the right way.

Of all of the things I had thought  I was going to do on this trip, herding sheep was one thing that I had not thought I was going to do, but we had a good time. I will say that I have a lot of respect for people who do this sort of thing on a regular basis.

Let the sheep jokes begin.