Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand
7.35pm, 14th of June 2008
The second match of England's New Zealand rugby tour in the "Iveco Series".
Despite it being a trifle on the chill side (what with it being the midst of winter here) and with a slight occasional passing shower in the air, the heat and excitement of the almost capacity crowd of 60,000+ people made the atmosphere electric.
Super opening ceremony (shown left) had English and New Zealand armies, clad in full medieval battle dress, kicking off and having a good old fight, complete with fireworks, much high jinks and hilarity.
The English team: Mike Brown, Topsy Ojo, Mike Tindall, Olly Barkley, David Strettle, Charlie Hodgson, Richard Wigglesworth, Luke Narraway, Tom Rees, James Haskell, Steve Borthwick (Captain), Tom Palmer, Matt Stevens, Lee Mears and Andrew Sheridan.
The All Blacks: Mils Muliaina, Anthony Tuitvake, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Dan Carter, Andy Ellis, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (Captain), Rodney So'oialo, Ali Williams, Brad Thorn, Greg Somerville, Andew Hore and Neemia Tialata.
England kicked off strongly, making much headway in the opening minutes (they're toying with you!).
Suspected defence opening and England makes a break for it. Underestimating, the nearest AB blocks and posh! up and over, head over heels goes the attacker, breaking like sea on the rocks.
"Welcome to New Zealand!" chortles a local sat behind. The worldwide rugby superiority of the All Blacks surely doesn't come from no good reason.
Fairly middle of the road fracas and squals then continued throughout, with the ABs steadily increasing their scoreboard advantage.
Topsy Ojo (WOW! What a name!!) made the game's most outstanding contribution with a superb touchdown run from past mid-field, moving like lightening to much English approval and applause.
Hails of plastic beer bottles, cardboard and cheers accompanied Mexican waves rolling round and around with greater and greater gusto each time.
Result: All Blacks 37, England 20.
A great event.
Maybe one in seven had turned out with painted faces and/or costumes.
Not forgetting the obligatory Steinlager and kiwi hot dogs (battered sausage on a stick), a good time had by all.
Graced with love and the ashes of many New Zealanders, rugby players and fans, the final of the forthcoming Rugby World Cup is planned to take place at this same venue - Eden Park - the home of the All Blacks in Auckland in 2011.