Friday, November 21, 2008
After a 30 year absence, the All Blacks returned to Limerick to take on Munster once again, the side that so famously beat them 12-0 in 1978. This time around though, it was the men from New Zealand who came out on top, avenging defeat with a hard-fought 18-16 win after Joe Rokocokos late try helped them avoid a historic repeat.
The legend of the tale was done justice on Tuesday night as the 2008 version produced as much splendour and atmosphere as that famous day three decades ago.
A packed Thomond Park cheered for absolutely everything, starting when the match ball was delivered by helicopter to the 1978 captain Donal Canniffe, and rose as one to acknowledge the feat achieved by the heroic team of yesteryear.
The game itself had all the drama and intensity all were expecting to see. Munster were ahead at half time, and looked like they could make history yet again, but the late try sealed the famous victory for the unbeaten tourists.
As the two sides lined up before kickoff, Munster prepared to face the Haka, but we saw something quite unique, and a pretty special moment in the history of the game.
The Kiwis of the Munster side, Rua Tipoki, Lifeimi Mafi, Doug Howlett and reserve back Jeremy Manning, all stepped forward and laid down the Haka as a challenge to the All Blacks, before they responded themselves.
They were backed by their Munster teamates, and the noise in the crowd was deafening. Munster captain Mick ODriscoll said it was an honour for his team to be part of this historic pre-match ritual.
"Rua in particular, and I don't like singling any of them out, but speaking to Rua he is probably one of the proudest men you will ever meet," O'Driscoll said. "And I think it is something he wanted to do so we all rolled in behind him."
"As a Kiwi boy you grow up dreaming as soon as you pick up a rugby ball that you can play for the All Blacks one day and as a Maori, you know, do the haka for the All Blacks," said Tipoki.
"I got asked if we could represent our team and we were wary because Munster has already such a rich culture and tradition that we were not just going to come here and place our stamp on here and have people who have supported Munster for years and lived Munster and played for Munster and thought what are these guys doing.
"It was something that everyone we spoke to wanted us to do and we did it on behalf of our team and they supported us. It was a special moment in my career and I will always remember it."
All Blacks No 8 Liam Messam was himself full of praise for Tipoki and the gesture, saying it was awesome, clapping and nodding his approval afterwards.
"I just wanted to pay my respects to Rua because he was the senior player and used to be my captain in the Maoris and I wanted to show my respect to him in his home game."