Beauden's 'got the gift'

TARYN UTIGER
Last updated 05:00 24/06/2013
Beauden Barrett
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ

TARANAKI TOP DOG: Hometown boy Beauden Barrett celebrates after his late try sealed the All Blacks' 24-9 victory over France in New Plymouth.

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Beauden Barrett certainly knows how to please a hometown crowd.

Yarrow Stadium was near overflowing with supporters at Saturday's sellout test between the All Blacks and France.

Barrett's final minute try gave them something to cheer at last and left a feel-good factor after what had been a mostly dour test match despite the All Blacks winning 24-9.

Among the masses sat one of the greatest rugby players in history - Sir Colin "Pinetree" Meads.

Rising out of his seat and cheering for Barrett's final-minute-try, the former All Black was impressed with the Taranaki lad.

"He did it last week in Christchurch and he has done it again this week, which is a tremendous effort. He's got the gift," the 77-year-old said.

While Barrett was in the spotlight after the game, it was 9-year-old Riley McDonald who took centre stage before the test match started.

The Eltham boy was selected to be the official ballboy and ran the match ball into the centre of the field before kickoff.

"I put all my gear on and had to wait until after the national anthem to run the ball on.

"It was really fun. I was nervous, but I was excited too."

It was Riley's first time at an All Blacks game and he enjoyed seeing first-five Dan Carter in action.

"Dan is my favourite and I think he did well. France did pretty good on their defence too."

Although the French team did not win, their supporters were still in high spirits.

French woman Marie-Elizabeth Cherasse said it was the end of the season for the players in the French team so she was impressed with their performance.

"A lot of our players are very, very tired, so I think the boys did well.

"We scored points this time so that is a big improvement from last week," she said.

Nelita Byrne, the manager of venues for the New Plymouth District Council, said fans heeded the request to arrive early and everyone was seated 10 minutes before kickoff.

"The dry weather for the game, the fans' willingness to arrive early and the great team of staff and volunteers at the venue meant it was a really enjoyable night for everyone," she said.

After the match thousands made their way to New Plymouth's CBD, filling bars to capacity.

Despite the influx, police said the crowds were well behaved, meaning a relatively quiet night for them.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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