Four more years.
That’s how long the All Blacks and their army of fans will have to wait until they have the chance to get their hands on the Webb Ellis Cup after last night’s heart-breaking 19-7 Rugby World Cup semifinal loss to England at International Stadium Yokohama.
England out-smarted and out-muscled the Kieran Read-captained All Blacks last night; not only ending the hopes of his team and fans, but also wrecking what was meant to be a triumphant 34th birthday for Read.
The painful loss ended the All Blacks’ hopes of winning a third successive World Cup. With it, so too vanished the chances of Read and teammates Sonny Bill Williams and Samuel Whitelock of becoming the first men to win three Rugby World Cup titles in succession.
Around the country — in bars, sports clubs and homes — All Black fans cried tears of agony. So too did some of the thousands of Kiwi inside the 72,000-capacity stadium in Yokohama.
And one can only imagine the feelings of four TAB punters in particular on fulltime. Three had placed $50,000 bets at odds of around $2.25 on the All Blacks winning the World Cup. Another had a $20,000 bet at odds of $2.20.
Jamie Salmon — the only man to play test rugby for both England and the All Blacks — said pre-match the showdown would be an “epic encounter”. And he wasn’t wrong.
The fireworks started before kick-off with England lining up in a V formation to face the haka, with several players flouting World Rugby protocol by crossing the halfway line to face off against the pre-match challenge.
And England’s start was explosive, with Manu Tuilagi scoring in just the second minute. The onslaught continued after the restart as the All Blacks desperately tried to keep England out. The All Blacks’ nervous start wasn’t worrying some supporters at Auckland’s Empire Tavern, with Niko Keeling describing it as “just a little bit of early jitters”.
England were up 10-0 at halftime; the first time in 51 years that the All Blacks had failed to score a point in the first half of any test clash.
Despite the deficit at the break, fans still kept the faith, with Rachel Rogers saying: “We know the All Blacks always come out in the second half to kill it.
“Yes of course [they’ll win]. They’ll be getting a serve up from old Steve-o [coach Steve Hansen] though.”
But when England appeared to score an early second try, later reversed, one told his mate: “It’s over, isn’t it? That’s it’.”
The All Blacks finally got on the scoreboard 57 minutes in, through Ardie Savea. But it wasn’t enough, with two penalty kicks from England putting the final nails into the All Blacks’ World Cup coffin.
And the reality of what was to come sank in for fans at the pub, with one questioning the poor tactics employed by the All Blacks.
“It’s almost like a game plan, that they’re kicking to them, because they’re continually doing it.”
While most Kiwi rugby fans will be waking today in a haze of post-match agony, the proud parents of England’s reserve halfback Willi Heinz won’t be among them.
His father, Bob, was watching the match from the sanctuary of his lounge in Lincoln, near Christchurch.
Meanwhile, Willi’s mother, Jane, and sister, Francesca, had travelled to Japan to watch the all the bone-jarring tackles and crucial scores at International Stadium Yokohama.
In the build-up to the clash of the rugby giants, Jane made it clear who the Heinz family — proud New Zealanders — would be cheering on.
“We’re definitely supporting England,” she said. “It’s England all the way.”
And last night, it definitely was England all the way.