I’m sending this missive, appropriately, from the Foreign Correspondents’ Club which is a bar in Hong Kong, a few hours after the All Blacks dropped their bundle against the Wallabies.
I was in a great spot close to the action though I had a very vocal section of Wallabies supporters behind me.
Conditions were perfect, about 22 degrees and no humidity, a far cry from two years ago when the first Bledisloe game at the Hong Kong Stadium – which I also attended – was ruined somewhat after rain before the match badly affected the pitch.
I’m afraid I had a premonition the game might go badly for the All Blacks after talking to that doyen of rugby commentators, Keith Quinn, at the All Blacks’ hotel, the Excelsior, the day before – he’s leading a supporters’ tour, from what I could gather.
Quinn’s point was that today’s game might be a forerunner of next year’s Rugby World Cup final, and that it was “anomalous”, to use his word, that the number one-ranked team in the world had beaten the second-ranked 10 times in a row.
I’d also read that the Wallabies had had three weeks in camp before leaving Oz, the ABs, on the other hand, had had three days – which showed when they were quickly 12-0 down.
Certainly the game was a heck of a spectacle for the crowd of 26,210, which unfortunately was far down on capacity, due I understand to highly inflated ticket prices (a pint of beer I bought there was also more than $NZ10 – I may as well have been drinking at one of Queenstown’s flash downtown haunts…)
On the other hand, I learnt at a Bledisloe luncheon today at the Hong Kong Football Club – where the guest speakers were Sean Fitzpatrick, Nick Farr-Jones, Justin Marshall and Matt Burke – that the ABs had only lost one game against the Aussies out of 15 when Richie McCaw and Dan Carter had been in the starting XV. (It’s just a pity Carter came off, because his replacement Stephen Donald was a major reason why the ABs surrendered a 24-12 lead).
Tonight’s quite mild, and the two major nightspots, Lan Kwai Fong and Wan Chai, are teeming with people,
many dressed for Halloween – seriously, Hong Kong people do dress-up far better than Kiwis.
And guess who I bumped into outside a bar colourfully called The Old China Hand? Long-time Queenstown developer John Guthrie and his mate, ex-local mayor/now Wellington developer David Bradford, who’d swanned in from London and turned up at the stadium just as the match was finishing! My host and I took them up to a bar for a drink but it was too smokey for Bradford so they didn’t stay.
Other highlights of Hong Kong so far? At the ABs’ hotel I bumped into McCaw and had a great chat with the team’s manager, former Queenstowner Darren Shand. I felt right at home - not to mention the fact that during the game, after an All Blacks’ try, Dave Dobbyn’s ‘Slice of Heaven’ came out over the sound system.
At a restaurant yesterday, called Ba Yin, specialising in food from the Chinse province of Xinjiang, I sampled camel for the first time – not too dissimilar to lamb, I can report.
And what’s very snazzy is the airport railway, which in little more than 20 minutes takes you right to the centre of Hong Kong – something Auckland could do with for the Rugby World Cup next year.
Another surprise was to see an article by Sam Neill in yesteday’s “South China Post”, previewing the Bledisloe – he attended the first Hong Kong Bledisloe but couldn’t make today’s encounter.
Trust everyone’s having a great time in Queenstown – my next report will come from Beijing.
– Mountain Scene chief news hound Philip ‘Scoop’ Chandler flew to Hong Kong and China courtesy of Air New Zealand.