New Zealand Rugby
About time for Carisbrook farewell
NZPA's Mark Geenty
June 21, 2010
Carisbrook is lit up for one last time © Getty Images
As throngs of misty-eyed punters lingered for the strains of Auld Lang Syne and the crackle of fireworks, creaky Carisbrook said its final goodbye to Test rugby on Saturday as the All Blacks smashed Wales.
And not a moment too soon for some. It was hard to comprehend the venerable old man of New Zealand rugby was still deemed fit to host an international, 102 years and 37 tests on from its first against the Anglo-Welsh.
Security guards and metal fences conspired to herd patrons on to the terraces like sheep; queues for the women's toilets were 30-deep an hour before kickoff and some temporary seats at ground level offered a panoramic view of the backs of the All Blacks and Wales reserves.
It's all good news for the next door scrap metal yard which will receive some extra business next year as test rugby moves to Dunedin's shiny new 30,000-seat stadium, with a roof, in time for the World Cup.
But proud Dunedinites were intent on honouring their old mate and he was given a rousing send-off as 29,000 fans packed the ground. The All Blacks arose from their slumber in a second half onslaught to seal a 42-9 victory. It signed off as the All Blacks' most successful Test venue of the 'big-four', with 31 victories for an 84% win rate.
The day dawned brilliantly fine, some locals sauntered about in shorts and jandals, and some discarded clothing altogether as the traditional nude rugby match - complete with a fully-clothed streaker - drew a fascinated crowd to Logan Park.
Legendary student pub Gardies had closed down for good a day earlier, to avoid match-day carnage, but the Octagon heaved with bar patrons. As they began their long walk to Carisbrook, they were accompanied by a band belting out tunes on the back of a moving truck.
A lone bagpiper atop the main grandstand signalled game-on, and the All Blacks came to the party with a rousing Kapa O Pango haka, which had its first airing against South Africa here in 2005 and wasn't seen at all last year. "Since it was the last test match here it was fitting we pulled it out," halfback Jimmy Cowan said. "The boys were pretty excited about it."
The crowd roared into life in the second half as All Blacks first five-eighth Dan Carter ran the show, then stayed on stoically as the last rites were performed. Former crowd favourite Jeff Wilson dug up a square of turf which was helicoptered away; the bagpipes were unfurled again and the crowd joined in the strains of Auld Lang Syne.
"It's something I'll cherish," Cowan said. "You don't often see a full house like that and the crowd bought into it with the Mexican waves, they were very loud. It reminded me of my younger days when I was here watching Test matches and it just had that feel about it again. It brought back memories. It's a sad note to see it go but it's part of life. Everyone said it was sad when Athletic Park went, but look at the new stadium [in Wellington]. Hopefully we get the same returns here from the new stadium."