It’s amazing what one point can do.
Approximately 18 hours ago, the mighty New Zealand All Blacks — who have the highest winning percentage of any professional team in any sport, but a long history of stumbling at the last hurdle — beat the totally schizophrenic French, 8-7.
That single point won us the Rugby World Cup, which is only handed out every four years.
And, mate, you have no idea what that means to a small, rugby-mad country at the bottom of the world that has really been up against it.
In the dying minutes of last night’s epic game, minutes that lasted an eternity, in which the French roared back and back and back, no-one in New Zealand dared to breathe.
They hoped. And prayed. And pleaded:
“Please, please, please, our country needs this soooooooooo bad. BLOODY HELL, I NEED THIS!”
Because the last 12 months Downunder in Nu Zillan have been a mofo.
In November 2010, the Pike River coal mine on the South Island’s West Coast experienced a huge explosion that killed 29 men. Their bodies are still entombed.
In February, beautiful Christchurch was rocked by a savage earthquake. It killed over 200 people and caused $20 billion in damage to the Garden City. More than 7,000 aftershocks have followed, prompting global reinsurers to close their books even as battle-weary residents face decades of rebuilding. And as a final slap, Christchurch wasn’t able to host even one Rugby World Cup game.
As I type this, salvors are battling to offload hundreds of tons of oil from a grounded container ship that is breaking up off the gorgeous Bay of Plenty’s beaches. It’s already caused the worst environmental disaster ever to hit clean, green New Zealand.
And the New Zealand Economy? Let’s just say we’re doing it tough thanks to the global recession, the $20 billion earthquake and a recent credit downgrade by Standard and Poor’s.
But never mind.
For the last 20 hours, all that pain and worry and sadness and gloom have gone away. Poof.
Because last night, for 80 minutes, two rugby titans hammered each other on the hallowed Eden Park turf. And at the end, it come down to a four-minute gut-check and a single point.
And we won.
This afternoon, one in every five people who live in Auckland jammed into downtown for a parade to honor the All Blacks’ incredible achievement, to celebrate a championship that has been so long in coming, and to forget, for a little while anyway, the last 12 mofo months. Tomorrow the parade goes to battered Christchurch, and the next day to Wellington.
Over the six weeks and 48 matches of this tournament, little ol’ Nu Zillan — “A stadium of 4 million” — put on what’s being hailed as the best Rugby World Cup ever, thanks to kiwi hospitality, a mad passion for rugby, brilliant planning and stunning execution, right throughout Aotearoa New Zealand, the land of the long white cloud.
New Zealand, you beauty. Enjoy your Cup!
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