Haka challenge pumps Munster Kiwi
Proud Munster Maori Rua Tipoki said performing the haka for the All Blacks was "a once in a lifetime opportunity" and he was thrilled with both his performance and the response from the men in black as the pre-match ritual set off a dramatic evening here.
The All Blacks scored a late try to snatch an 18-16 win but even the result couldn't detract from Tipoki's night.
As expected he and fellow Kiwis, former All Black Doug Howlett, former New Zealand sevens player Lifeimi Mafi and former Marlborough player Jerry Manning fronted the All Blacks with their own haka.
In fact they got in first with Tipoki, the former New Zealand Maori captain leading the way.
"As a Kiwi boy you grow up hoping that you are going to play for the All Blacks one day and as a Maori to do the haka for the All Blacks," he said, adding that to challenge the All Blacks was the next best thing.
"It was a once in a lifetime opportunity I suppose. We got asked to represent our team. We weren't sure but we spoke to everyone and that's what they wanted us to do on behalf of our team. So it was a special moment in my career and I will always remember it."
It was an electrifying moment for the crowd as well, setting them off in a frenzy.
"The crowd just went ballistic. The adrenalin just pumped, we were trying to keep together," Tipoki. who was equally delighted with the way the All Blacks responded, said.
"They did an awesome haka. I have faced plenty of hakas and that was awesome."
Piri Weepu, a Maori player who captained the All Blacks against Munster and led the New Zealand haka, was equally impressed with the effort from the Munster quartet.
"It was quite noisy so you couldn't really hear it but you could see the expression on the boys faces," Weepu said.
"It was a challenge for me to step up and challenge them back and I think the boys stepped up to that tonight. We met the challenge."
Munster skipper Mick O'Driscoll said there was never any doubt about the haka being performed in the club's famous red jersey.
"Rua is one of the proudest men you'd ever meet and it was something he wanted to do. We all rode in behind him.
"As a team and our management I think it was a very proud occasion for them to do that. We were over the moon for them."
Tipoki was clearly fired up by the haka and led Munster's impressive charge at the All Blacks. He was into everything, making big hits, strong tackles and frequently popping up at the base of rucks to feed the ball on.
Eventually he was forced off early in the second half with a knee injury that saw him hobble into the press conference on crutches.
"I wasn't going to come off wondering if I had anything left in the tank. But the knee got a bit of a knock and it wasn't one of those games where you can bluff your way through. If you are half lame and you are not 100 percent then you have to get off."
It seemed even the defeat was lost on Tipoki as he looked back on a memorable night in Limerick where the 2008 side, depleted of their leading Irish players, did their best to try to repeat the heroics of the 1978 side who had beaten the All Blacks 12-nil. This current team came so close.
"I'm not disappointed at all just because of the way the boys did it – I would have been disappointed if we didn't leave it all out there. But we did everything we did on the day.
"I'm just so proud to be a Munster man today. I'm still a bit emotional. Obviously we had a lot of players who couldn't be chosen today but we said before we went out on the field that we wouldn't trade places with anyone.
"We were going out to be soldiers for each other, we were going to go to war for each other."
O'Driscoll agreed: "There was nothing left in the tank. It was a superb performance by one and all and we probably deserved a little more."
O'Driscoll said he would like to look at footage of the ruck that led to his side being penalised late in the match. From there the All Blacks kicked to touch, won the lineout and set up Rokocoko's match-winning try.
"We had the momentum but that's what happens. It's an 80 minute game and we were playing the All Blacks – they are the best in the world. We came so close yet so far."