After an adrenaline filled night, a week of anticipation and trepidation that the French passion and unpredictability would steal the moment away again for four more years, the boys played their hearts out and in a nerve wracking, prolonged and terrifying game, brought the Webb Ellis up back to New Zealand. By one point! They had to dig deep into the reserves as the injuries landed up scattered across the field, but at last, the years of build up and training; the depth and maturity and solidarity of the team meant they stepped up to the mark, gave away no penalties, let through no last minute drop kicks, and made the whole country very happy.
Today the sun is shining, and I can feel a measure of calm. Not euphoria, but huge relief at the wind up of a great tournament; a wonderful few weeks of great rugby. Christchurch missed the party and the realisation over a year ago that we were not going to get all the matches we should have, to learn that our recently renovated stadium was now toast, was a bitter blow to a rugby mad province, home of many of the All Blacks. The taxi drivers and hospitality workers left town to follow the work up north, and our bars, night life and gathering spots closed down. It has been a subdued version of what should have been, but like the rest of the world, we have watched it from afar, celebrated as best we can and felt huge emotion at seeing a Crusader jersey carry out the trophies last night.
Why is Canterbury feeling so proud?
It isn't drawing too long a bow to trumpet that the All Blacks' long-awaited World Cup victory was made in Canterbury.
Thirteen of the winning squad play their provincial footy for Canterbury or the Crusaders – skipper Richie McCaw, front rowers Corey Flynn, Owen Franks and Ben Franks, locks Brad Thorn and Sam Whitelock, No8 Kieran Read, halfback Andy Ellis, backline utility Sonny Bill Williams, fullback Israel Dagg, wing Zac Guildford and injured first five-eighths Daniel Carter and Colin Slade.
Of that baker's dozen, only Ellis, Carter and Slade are Cantabrians born and bred, but the others would attest their careers have been advanced by their exposure to the Canterbury rugby philosophy.
The whole game has been as much about the people as each match. The NZ reputation for choking hangs over the tournament - despite the depth of talent, and to overcome this, the team had to be stronger, with maturity, leadership and the right mental attitude, so I enjoyed the article on Graham Henry's evolution as a coach.
He has always been a teacher first and a coach second, but ironically he found his inner peace by becoming a student again.
After their last defeat at the World Cup:
Maybe as he surveyed the devastation Henry realised the journey was more important than the result?
His past four years have been marked by his empathy and you get the feeling his current players will talk largely in fond tones as they limp about on arthritic knees.
Henry took time to get to know them, found out what made each one tick.
He made it as much about how they wanted to play as how he wanted them to play.
“If I can convince them it’s a good idea then half the battle is won,” he said recently. “If I can’t then I’m wasting my time.”
Henry could still deliver a tongue-lashing, but more often it was an arm round the shoulder, a word of encouragement, or a subtle suggestion.
He found foils in the analytical detail, thoughtfulness and passion of Wayne Smith and the no-nonsense approach of Steve Hansen. They were the three wise men.
And he enlisted Brian Lochore who termed the phrases “better people make better All Blacks”.
So glad we have today off for a National Holiday!
Thinking of the 1000 who have died in the 7.2 earthquake in Turkey too. I hope the world rallies behind them and the international USAR teams can help them, the way they helped us, to save as many as they can from their rubble before it is too late.
Off to enjoy the sunshine, James and Jess' housewarming and a day of inner calm.