Battered city passes another huge test

JO MCKENZIE-MCLEAN
Last updated 05:00 17/06/2012

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Rugby-starved Cantabrians celebrated the end to a two-year All Black test drought last night.

A sellout crowd of 21,000 forgot the earthquakes, the snow, the storms, and the loss of the 2011 World Cup games, packing bars before swarming into the new AMI Stadium to see the All Blacks win their second test against Ireland 22 -19, in the city's first international test since August 2010, when the All Blacks beat the Wallabies 20-10 at the old, now quake-damaged AMI Stadium.

Yesterday, some of the city's old buzz returned ahead of the game, with Irish and New Zealand fans descending on the city to support not only the All Blacks, but Christchurch.

Wellingtonian Leighton Jones said a group of five friends, a mix of Dubliners and Kiwis, had flown to Christchurch to "get a taste" of what test match rugby was like after a two-year drought.

They warmed up at The Craic bar in Riccarton, crammed shoulder to shoulder with other fans. "It's such a great boost for Christchurch, after not having had a test for two years."

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said that in the midst of what had been a hard time, the test "meant the earth" to rugby fans.

"It's been more than 600-odd days since we have had a test played in the city, so it's sensational.

"The rugby community is buzzing, people are talking about the game, the stadium and the future, and not talking about all the stuff that weighs us down day after day."

Christchurch Stadium Trust chairman Sir John Hansen said the test was a "giant step" back to normality. "The opening night Crusaders game in March was very emotional, and since then it's been full up, but I don't think any of that matched the excitement when the crowd saw the All Blacks run out last night."

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