Nation's troubles take backseat as party begins

01:29, Sep 10 2011
Queen's Wharf
Fans queue up at Queen's Wharf ahead of tonight's fireworks display.
Queen's Wharf
Tongan fans show their support for tonight's opener against the All Blacks.
Flash mob haka
A massive flash-mob haka wows the crowd at Auckland's waterfront in the opening week of the Rugby World Cup in September.
Hummer
Owners of a stretch hummer displaying the silver fern shows where their support lies.
Waka
Auckland's Viaduct is swarmed with crowds as 600 Maori warriors gear up to take to the water in their waka.
ABs fans
All Blacks supporters show where their loyalty lies ahead of tonight's clash against Tonga.
French fans
French fans get into the swing of things at Queen's Wharf.
Fans
Tongan fans show their support on K Road.
Fans
All Blacks fans show their support ahead of tonight's clash.
Queen's Wharf
A man with a loudspeaker tries to address the crowd gathering in front of Queen's Wharf.
Queen's Wharf
Fans at the Auckland Waterfront.
Queen's Wharf
Fans at the Auckland Waterfront.
Queen's Wharf
Fans at the Auckland Waterfront.
Queen's Wharf
Fans at the Auckland Waterfront.
Queen's Wharf
Fans at the Auckland Waterfront.
Queen's Wharf
Fans at the Auckland Waterfront.
Queen's Wharf
Fans at the Auckland Waterfront.
Queen's Wharf
Fans at the Auckland Waterfront.
Queen's Wharf
Fans at the Auckland Waterfront.
Queen's Wharf
Fans at the Auckland Waterfront.
Queen's Wharf
Fans at the Auckland Waterfront.
Queen's Wharf
Fans at the Auckland Waterfront.
Queen's Wharf
Fans at the Auckland Waterfront.
David Lisiate
Tongan fan David Lisiate has painted his Burnley Terrace house near Eden Park to show his support.
Queen's Wharf
Fans at the Auckland Waterfront.
Queen's Wharf
Thousands of fans packed into Queen's Wharf for the Rugby World Cup opening last week Friday.
England out of play.
Manusamoa Tuilaga of England practices at Otago Stadium.
Queen's Wharf
Thousands of fans celebrate at the Viaduct, on the opening day of the Rugby World Cup.
Queen's Wharf
Thousands of fans celebrate at the Viaduct, on the opening day of the Rugby World Cup.
Queen's Wharf
Thousands of fans celebrate at the Viaduct, on the opening day of the Rugby World Cup.
Tongan fans
Tongan fans gear up for the opening clash tonight.
Dave Dobbyn
Thousands of rugby fans were giving a rousing performance by Dave Dobbyn.
Waka crews
Maori warriors make their way to the waka.
Queen's Wharf
The Finn brothers perform.
RWC Opening
Auckland Mayor, Len Brown opens RWC festivities.
Queen's Wharf
Rugby fans make their way to the stadium.
Tongan fans in Auckland.
Tonga fans in Auckland.
Tongan fans in Auckland.
Tonga fans in Auckland display their dedication to their team during the Rugby World Cup tournament.
All Blacks fans in Auckland.
All Blacks fans in Auckland.
All Blacks fans in Auckland.
All Blacks fans in Auckland.

New Zealanders can put behind them 12 months of despair caused by a devastating earthquake, tragic mine explosion and a fluttering economy to begin a six-week party as the All Blacks beat Tonga 41-10 in the opening match of the Rugby World Cup last night.

Kiwis were left devastated after Christchurch's February 22 earthquake in which 181 people were killed and much of the city destroyed.

That followed the death of 29 miners after a methane gas explosion at the Pike River mine last November as the country, like many others, struggled with the impact of the global financial crisis.

But yesterday thousands of party-goers thronged the streets of downtown Auckland and millions more gathered in pubs, open-air venues and front rooms around the country to celebrate the opening of the seventh global showcase of the sport.

It wasn't all smooth sailing, with the city's emergency services pushed to the limit  and the transport system struggling to cope.

Police spokesperson Noreen Hegarty said there were "pockets of disorder" and at some times the situations had become "volatile".

Auckland Hospital accident and emegency staff said they attended to two people who were assaulted and two people injured in a car accident. Both incidents were in relation to the game.

The department was at "103 per cent" capacity last night dealing with assaults and alcohol related injuries.

All Blacks V Tonga
Ali Williams of New Zealand in action.
All Blacks V Tonga
Jimmy Cowan of New Zealand in action.
Richie McCaw and Piri Weepu lead the New Zealand haka.
All Blacks V Tonga
All Black fullback Israel Dagg scores the opening try.
The Tongans perform the Sipi Tau.
All Blacks V Tonga
All Black fullback Israel Dagg scores the opening try.
New Zealand vs Tonga
Dan Carter lines up a kick during the New Zealand v Tonga match at Eden Park.
All Blacks V Tonga
All Black Richard Kahui scores a try.
All Blacks V Tonga
Sonny Bill Williams in action at NZ v Tonga opening game of the Rugby World Cup.
Ma'a Nonu dodges the opposition.
All Blacks V Tonga
Owen Franks of the All Blacks evades a tackle from Sukanaivalu Hufanga of Tonga.
All Blacks V Tonga
Richard Kahui of the All Blacks runs with the ball.
All Blacks V Tonga
Andrew Ma'ilei of Tonga is tackled by Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams of the All Blacks.
All Blacks V Tonga
Sonny Bill Williams of the All Blacks is tackled by the Tongan defence.
Ali Williams of the All Blacks and Joseph Tuineau of Tonga clash.
All Blacks V Tonga
Dan Carter of the All Blacks.
All Blacks V Tonga
All Black blindside flanker Jerome Kaino During the All Blacks vs Tonga opening match of the Rugby World Cup.
All Blacks V Tonga
All Black fullback Israel Dagg in action.
All Black second-five Sonny Bill Williams in action.
All Blacks V Tonga
All Black captain Richie McCaw.
All Blacks V Tonga
All Black prop Owen Franks.
New Zealand vs Tonga
Taniela Moa of Tonga evades a tackle from Richie McCaw.
Sonny Bill Williams goes for the line.
New Zealand vs Tonga
Sonny Bill Williams has his shirt replaced.
New Zealand vs Tonga
Sonny Bill Williams goes for the line during the All Blacks vs Tonga opening match.
New Zealand vs Tonga
Israel Dagg goes in.
New Zealand vs Tonga
Jerome Kaino goes over the line.
New Zealand vs Tonga
Sonny Bill Williams of the All Blacks and Taniela Moa.

Auckland hospitals communications manger, Mark Fenwick said there was "a lot of alcohol related harm."

Earlier, along Auckland's waterfront rugby fans proudly displayed their team's jerseys with flags draped over shoulders and lashings of face paint as groups worked on chants, mingled and practiced some good-natured ribbing with their neighbours.

Even Briton Joseph Marsh, a self-confessed soccer fan, found himself enjoying the occasion.

''You just can't help but get caught up in all of this - it's brilliant,'' Marsh told Reuters as he queued outside the Fan Zone with several thousand others before it opened.

More than 60,000 fans at Eden Park then greeted the worldwide television audience with a glittering sea of mobile phones and cameras as a solo voice sang a haunting karanga, or welcome, in the darkness.

The spectacular opening ceremony only served to add to the party atmosphere.

But while the first half of the opening match started with a bang, it ultimately did not live up to those expectations as the heavily-favoured All Blacks failed to settle any jitters their fans had of ending a 24-year World Cup drought.

New Zealand, who have entered every World Cup as favourites since they won the inaugural tournament in 1987, came into Friday's match on the back of two successive losses in the Tri-Nations.

Fans had expected an emphatic statement, similar to the start made by the 1987 side when they beat Italy 70-6 in a match highlighted by John Kirwan's stunning length-of-the field try through virtually the entire Italian side.

The hosts started brilliantly with their exciting backline cutting the Tongans to shreds with clever offloads and seemingly poised to replicate the mammoth scores of their last two matches against the Pacific islanders _ 102-0 and 91-7 victories.

Centre Ma'a Nonu, however, was quick to remind his compatriots of the status of the tournament and that it may have been too much for people to expect them to push the century mark again.

''Maybe there's a perception that we should have put a lot more points on Tonga,'' Nonu told reporters.

''Mate, this is the World Cup and they came at us, it's not going to be a walk in the park, if you wanna go further in this tournament, we have to make fewer errors and work harder.''

England, the 2003 champions, face Argentina, who finished third at the 2007 tournament, clash in Dunedin in the highlight of the second day of the World Cup.

- Stuff with Reuters

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Queen's Wharf
Eden Park starts to fill up.
Queen's Wharf
Richie McCaw of the All Blacks looks on in Eden Park.
RWC: Eden Park opening
Moments before the opening ceremony.
RWC: Eden Park opening
Eden Park just before the opening ceremony.
RWC: Eden Park opening
The opening ceremony.
RWC: Eden Park opening
The opening ceremony.
RWC: Eden Park opening
The opening ceremony.
RWC: Eden Park opening
The opening ceremony at Eden Park.
Opening ceremony at Eden Park.
RWC: Eden Park opening
The opening ceremony at Eden Park.
Opening ceremony at Eden Park.
Opening ceremony at Eden Park.
Opening ceremony at Eden Park.
RWC: Eden Park opening
The carpet is rolled up after the opening ceremony.
RWC: Eden Park opening
The opening ceremony at Eden Park.
Opening ceremony at Eden Park.
RWC: Eden Park opening
The opening ceremony at Eden Park.
Opening ceremony at Eden Park.
Opening ceremony at Eden Park.
Opening ceremony at Eden Park.
Opening Cermony
Opening ceremony at Eden Park.
Opening ceremony at Eden Park.
Opening ceremony at Eden Park.
Opening Cermony
Fireworks over the Auckland waterfront during the Rugby World Cup opening ceremony.
Opening Cermony
Fireworks over the Auckland waterfront during the Rugby World Cup opening ceremony.
Opening ceremony at Eden Park.
Eden Park
New Zealand prime minister John Key speaks as IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset looks on.
Fireworks over the Auckland waterfront.
Fireworks over the Auckland waterfront during the Rugby World Cup opening ceremony.
Backstage at opening ceremony at Eden Park.
Israel Dagg
CLASS ACT: All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg scores the opening try against Tonga.