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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Spare a Thought and Prayer for our Kiwi Rugby Friends....

Wellington, the Kiwi Capital suffered damage in the last quake
Back in 2011, my wife and I were fortunate enough to make it to New Zealand. I have been to some pretty amazing places, like France, Portugal, Scotland, Thailand and Australia, but I think New Zealand is the most beautiful country I have ever visited. My wife and I had the chance while we were in Nelson, on the South Island, to take a trip over to Able Tasman National Park. It was so beautiful, green, and lush with Turquoise half expected to see Adam and Eve stroll by you..
Flying low towards the South Island of New Zealand...breath taking

The thing when you are in a place that has mountains and great scenery-like New Zealand, Italy and where I live now in California- is that the beauty comes with a heavy duty price tag: Earthquakes. California has suffered from more than a couple of catastrophic earthquakes, and central Italy just got hit a few weeks ago. This past weekend, New Zealand got hit with a major 7.5 shaker that killed a couple of people, but also caused a great deal of damage to roads and infrastructure. Places where my wife and I had been on our trip, like Wellington, Lower Hutt, Nelson, and Picton all suffered damage from the earthquake and the multiple aftershocks.
Picton also suffered earthquake damage.

I mentioned briefly in my last posting on what a classy bunch of rugby fans Kiwis are-but to be honest with you, if you have ever had a chance to visit, or get to know Kiwis and Aussies, is that they are like a pack of golden retrievers. They are among the nicest people you will ever hope to meet. Thanks to being on the blogosphere, and my travels, I have been so lucky to befriend a great number of Kiwis. Right now after the quake, there are many people who have had their lives tipped upside down. With that in mind, spare thought, a prayer, or a dollar or two to the relief organization of your choice to help these amazing people out in their time of need.
Wishing the best to my Kiwi friends during this rough time....

Monday, November 7, 2016

Ireland Defeat the All Blacks in an Epic Match in Chicago 40-29

I always enjoy a trip to Chicago. I lived in the Chicago area from the time I was 10 until I was almost 15, and my wife, my kids and I lived in Chi-Town from 1992-1993. What's not to like? Deep dish pizza, Italian Roast Beef Sandwiches and the Chicago style hot dog.
The Chicago Deep Dish Pizza-a work of art!
Taking a picture with a green screen while wearing a green shirt-gives ghostly appearance.
Oh yeah, since AIG is based in Chicago and they give an awful lot of money to the New Zealand Rugby Union, it also means that Chicago has now hosted the All Blacks twice in the past couple of years. Two years ago, my buddy Tom Daniels and I were there to watch the All Blacks take on the USA Eagles which showed just how far behind the Kiwis we really are in rugby.
It was an Amazing atmosphere with the largest crowd to ever see a rugby match in the USA

Ireland was to put up a better match against the mighty men in Black, but not many people really gave the Irish much of a chance of actually beating the All Blacks. In 111 years of matches between these two nations, the Irish Men's top side had never beaten the All Blacks. I think most of us in the record breaking crowd of 64,000-the largest crowd to ever see a rugby match in the United States-really just wanted a competitive game. What we ended up witnessing was an epic piece of history as the Irish played an amazing first half of rugby. They controlled the ball, and took advantage of a 10 minute All Black sin bin to race off to a 25-8 half time lead. The Ireland forwards did an amazing job in the scrums, line outs and at the breakdown.
The Irish Forwards dominated in the Line outs, as well

Ireland would end up scoring the match clincher off this scrum deep in Kiwi territory
The crowd was buzzing at half time, but the Kiwis that were sitting near us were still pretty confident that the All Blacks had enough skill and power to over come the 17 point deficit.

In the second half, the All Blacks attacked the Irish with all they had-when they had the score to within 4 points, more than a few green clad fans thought that Irish hearts would be disappointed again. The Irish kept their composure and were able add a late try and then to hold on for a 40-29 win-their first ever-against the All Blacks. It's not often where the Kiwis get defeated in a match where they score 4 tries, but that was the case in this emotional match.

Even at the beginning, when the All Blacks did their Haka, the Irish formed themselves in a number 8 to pay homage to former Munster and Ireland great Anthony Foley, who recently passed away at the tender age of 42.  He wore the Munster jersey 200 times and was capped 62 times for Ireland.With all of the Munster players in the Irish line up, and what a respected player he was for Ireland, It was a very touching stand by the Irish as they faced the Haka.

The only thing that made witnessing this epic match even better, was that I was able to share this experience with my wife, my son Ian, my daughter Rachel, my friend Tom Daniels and my Grandson Duncan. He's only 8 years old, and I don't know how much of this game he will remember, but I know it will always stick with me.
My wife, my grandson, me, my son, my daughter and Tom fuel up before the game in Chicago
With my Grandson Duncan

With all of the fan support that came from all over the USA and all over the World, it just made for an unbelievable atmosphere. Of note, to show you how Rugby fans are just a cut above the rest, I had at least 8-9 All Black fans on Saturday walk up, shake my hand and say good game when they say me clad in my Ireland Jumper.(Scots-Irish DNA-along with some German and Swedish) It's hard to imagine any other sport or any other group of fans who would show as much class as the All Black fans, who did not whine or make excuses about missing players or calls made by the French Ref. This is what makes rugby so great.

Getting photo bombed by Tom-but the 40-29 score line is  no joke.
The Re-match in two weeks in Dublin should be very interesting, to say the least.