For more than an hour in Christchurch on Saturday night it seemed like a piece of history was to be made.
Rugby history, that is, with a first victory by Ireland over the All Blacks beckoning for much of a freezing cold evening in the Garden City.
It didn't happen, but it was desperately close. Dan Carter's winning dropped goal in the dying seconds came minutes after Irish first five-eighth Jonathan Sexton was unable to get the ball to travel the required distance from a long-range penalty attempt.
So, much to the relief of most of a capacity crowd, and rugby fans around the nation and the world, the All Blacks squeaked home. A case of history put on hold for the Irish, for at least a week.
But amidst all the excitement of a compelling contest, there wasn't a massive amount of attention paid – though there obviously had been in the build-up – to the fact that history was being made on the night regardless.
Because it was the first time since the devastation of February 22, 2011 that a rugby test had been staged in Christchurch and that was a significant milestone for a recovering city. Aside from the obvious physical evidence and the lingering emotional scars of that dramatic day, last year's Rugby World Cup, when Christchurch was to have hosted several games, would have been one of the toughest reminders for residents, months down the line, of what they and their city had gone through.
Not for nothing was one of the first assurances those in high places tried to give after the quake the one that Christchurch still had a chance of being involved in the World Cup. It was a hope that evaporated as quickly as the morning mist on a Canterbury winter's day, sadly, having been correctly identified as important to many living in Christchurch.
So Saturday night was a new beginning of sorts. Not in the stadium that would have hosted the World Cup matches – that's too badly damaged – but in the makeshift, scaled down AMI Stadium that has become the interim home of top rugby in Christchurch. It's already hosted several Super Rugby encounters.
Plainly, things are not back to normal for the Canterbury rugby fraternity and that's as it should be in a city that is only at the start of a long rebuilding process. But Saturday night, an evening mercifully free from any significant shakes, served as an important milestone on the road back.
Hopefully that will be some comfort to all those affected by the quakes of the last 21 months.
- © Fairfax NZ News