An Ode To Live Sport
By Nathan Limm | Photo by James Coleman
There are scarce few feelings in this world similar to that of roaring with 43,000 other rugby fans starved of sporting entertainment.
As I make my way to my (cheap) east stand seat, the warm, sweet aroma of overpriced mini donuts hangs in the air. Animated supporters, decked in blue, sometimes yellow, mill past each other on the way to grab last minute beers and cups of hot chips.
As the late afternoon sun dips behind the eaves of the imposing north stand, a cool breeze coils between packed rows of fans. A brass band plays Dave Dobbyn's ‘Slice of Heaven,’ appropriate given the little slice of heaven currently filling to max capacity.
The Blues and the Hurricanes emerge from their locker rooms like Roman gladiators marching out into the Colosseum. Each player has a steely gaze, well aware of the magnitude this occasion holds with the public.
A moment of silence is held for the inspiring men and women in the healthcare industry who have worked tirelessly to protect New Zealand from COVID-19. Suddenly a jet plane roars, flying low enough over the stands to give the people in the top row a bit of a fright. It’s on now.
The crowd is fizzing. Six weeks of stored lockdown energy is about to be released in one spectacle of a storm.
The Blues are attacking on halfway. Vince Aso rushes out of the defensive line, leaving Rieko Ioane acres of green. loane fends, steps and passes to winger Caleb Clarke, who busts past two flailing Hurricanes defenders to score under the posts.
My view of the field is quickly obscured by dozens of bright blue flags as the stadium erupts. The Blues are back, baby.
The Aucklanders continue to delight the crowd with TJ Faiane dotting down just seven minutes later.
A Mexican wave begins to circle the arena, providing distraction from a drab spell of scrums.
After a couple of penalties go the Hurricanes’ way, the old bloke in front of me can’t help himself.
“What the fuck was that, ref?!”
Yeah okay mate, settle down. This isn’t the under five’s match at your local club.
The boot of Otere Black keeps most of the crowd happy, however, and the Blues cruise on to a 30-20 win over the Canes.
As the many thousands of fans begin to drunkenly exit the stadium, I hang back. As a special treat, fans are allowed onto the field. Children chase each other around, re-enacting scored tries and emulating their heroes.
An evening chill lingers in the air as I step onto the hallowed Eden Park turf, soaking up a feeling rarely experienced as a die-hard Blues supporter.
Oh, live sport. How we have missed thee.