On a mild Friday night, the children had the fantastic experience of playing on the main pitch under the bright floodlights in front of the home stand with plenty of parents and supporters in attendance to watch some spectacular rugby.
The Irish Wanderers stood shoulder to shoulder and faced the might of a traditional Maori Haka performed at the half-way mark by the Tamaki squad prior to kick off –confirming that this was a truly International fixture.
The game was played at a high tempo, with 100% commitment from all the players at every tackle and breakdown. Early in the first half Tamaki displayed a strong physicality to break through tackles, and moved the ball quickly across to the wing.
They were unfortunate not to score, stopped shy of the try-line by the referees whistle for an infringement. Irish Wanderers responded well to this early warning and made a clean break themselves from the restart gaining valuable territory, only to lose the ball by some impressive counter rucking by Tamaki.
Once again the speed of their back-line proved difficult for the Irish Wanderers defence, and the quick ball recycling was text book All-Blacks. Tamaki were soon rewarded with the first try of the game just before half-time.
The second half saw Irish Wanderers start with strong desire. They were quick at the break-down and keen to win the ball. The Wanderers intensity in defence pressurised Tamaki into errors, and they were rewarded a scrum. The ball was hooked out cleanly, the scrum-half sniped round the blind-side, and with a quick set of heels darted passed the defenders to level the score.
However the lead was soon back with Tamaki as their backline once again made incisive passes at pace. A turnover ball from an Irish attack deep in Tamaki territory was suddenly making its way up along the wing for a break-away try. Shortly afterwards, Tamaki scored again to secure the 3-1 win, with another great team display of timely offloading and support running.
After a break, the crowd with camera phones ready were eagerly anticipating the Haka being performed again as the Irish Geese squad faced these All Black protégés. Once again the supporters witnessed another flowing and exciting game worthy of International status.
The Geese were not phased by the intense physicality that the Tamaki players brought to the contact area, and displayed early ascendancy in winning clean ball from the base and then moving it quickly to the wings where they exploited the space, side-stepped and scored. Tamaki responded well, moved the ball explosively to gain valuable territory and but for a spilled pass looked destined to equalise. Within moments, The Geese had quickly shipped the ball from the base of the resultant scrum and were themselves causing problems for the Kiwi defence with the pace of their passing. In a similar replay to their first try, The Geese again exploited the space along the wing and ran in to score 2-0 at half-time!
Tamaki came out for the second half determined to take control from the whistle. The Irish Geese secured the ball from the restart, only to lose possession by a tremendous rip executed perfectly by the Tamaki centre, who then moved at pace crashing through 2 or 3 Irish tacklers, but was then brought to the floor by an impressive try-saving tackle shy of the line. The ball was recycled quickly and crashed over the line by a strong forwards move 2-1.
A few moments later, Tamaki had levelled the score with a blazing run from their full-back who zig-zagged through the Geese defence and then offloaded selflessly to his free team-mate on the outside. As the game was nearing the end, The Geese showed a true depth of character and determination to seal the victory in front of the home crowd. The forwards worked tirelessly at the breakdown to retain the ball, moving further and further into the Tamaki half. Tamaki committed in numbers, and Irish seized the moment, moved the ball quickly and ran in to score – Irish won 3-2.
The evening was a fantastic experience for all concerned, with such a great quality of rugby on display from all the teams, played in the true spirit of the game. We then had an enjoyable social evening with our new friends from the southern-hemisphere, another performance of the Haka, exchanging stories and a few momentos, as well as contact details…for the return fixture?
We wish our friends from Tamaki NAZA all the best for the remainder of their tour, and good luck for the future …the next All Blacks?