A beautiful morning greeted us on Sept. 26th , and Carolyn and I took the opportunity to play a round of golf. The scenery was spectacular and the course huge. One hole was 450 meters long and most were about 300 meters. The course rolled over hills. From the tee you only had a vague idea where the green should be. The giant snow capped volcano, Taranaki or Egmont (if you are an old time non-Maori semi-racist Kiwi), poked out of the clouds occasionally, With no cart nor trundler (wheeled bag carrier) we were done after 12 fantastic holes. Cost was only NZ$20 + NZ$10 for club rental.
After golf we caught the bus down to the Fanzone to meet a Kiwi couple (Jim and Bernice) we had met in Wellington before the opening ceremony on Sept. 9th. They had offered to let us park our campervan in their driveway, but we eventually found a powered sight. On the way into New Plymouth we went by their house and left a note and bottle of wine. Jim & Bernice had tracked us down in our campsite and left us a note that they would like to meet up for drinks. We connected at the Fanzone and then went to a pub owned by a friend of Jim & Bernice and had a nice afternoon making great friends. The pub was a sea of Welsh red and it was hard to find any sign of Namibia support.
New Plymouth did a great job of putting on shuttle buses from downtown to the match. We hopped one with a jolly bus driver who honked and waved at all the Welsh supporters heading up the hill to Taranaki Stadium. A couple blocks away from the stadium was the Tukapa Rugby Club. Founded in 1892 it had a room with pictures of teams going back to 1892 and photos of the 13 club members who had played for the All Blacks. I left Carolyn to enjoy the pre-game festivities with our Welsh friends and went to indulge myself in the press freebies – lasagna and match program. As I left the media center to take my seat, Mt. Taranaki was glowing red in the light of the setting sun as the Welsh team completed their warm-up on the pitch. It seemed to be an ominous red dragon warning for the Namibians. Wales romped to 81-7 win. Stephen Jones seemed to be back and in good form, and Wales looked strong moving into their final match with Fiji and then a probable showdown with traditional 6 Nations rival Ireland in a quarterfinal. The Welsh stirred to sing a few songs during the match. When the crowd joined in singing the Welsh national anthem, it was spectacular. The sound system played the occasional clip of a Tom Jones tune and the evening was all Wales until Namibia took their exit lap from the tournament. The handful of Namibian fans and a large number of Welsh fans clapped them for 30 minutes and asked for autographs and pictures as the World Cup anthem “World in Union” warmed the chilling Taranaki evening and Namibia said farewell to their 2011 Rugby World Cup dream.
Post match celebrations continued back at the Takapo clubhouse. The local club and the Welsh exchanged a few tunes. Beers were very reasonable (a pint for NZ$5). The cab ride home took us past the hotel where the Welsh side was staying and we were tempted to stop in and see if the Welsh lads were celebrating, but a long wonderful day and sore muscles from lugging golf clubs won out.