NZ fans mourn World Cup failure
7 October 2007, WELLINGTON (AFP) - New Zealand's broken-hearted rugby fans struggled on Sunday to come to terms with the end of their World Cup dreams after the All Blacks suffered a shock defeat at the hands of the French.
7 October 2007
WELLINGTON (AFP) - New Zealand's broken-hearted rugby fans struggled on Sunday to come to terms with the end of their World Cup dreams after the All Blacks suffered a shock defeat at the hands of the French.
Supporters of the tournament favourites were stunned when the side were knocked out in a dramatic 20-18 quarterfinal, keeping up a two-decade drought since the All Blacks won the inaugural World Cup in 1987.
"I'm devastated, just like everybody else," said Jim Hooper, one of a legion of fans who gathered at one of Wellington's most popular watering holes to watch the match, which started at 8:00 am local time.
"But at the end of the day, the French read the game better, and put us under too much pressure," the 54-year-old said as he glumly sipped his beer.
It was gut-wrenching deja vu as the French repeated the second-half comeback that eliminated the All Blacks in the 1999 World Cup at Twickenham.
Former All Black Colin Meads said that the side should have won after a dominant start to the game -- and that the team's reputation as World Cup chokers was now even more firmly entrenched.
"We've got this monkey on our back that we choke at the World Cup always, and that's just going to rear its head again in a huge build-up to the next World Cup in four years time," he told the New Zealand Press Association.
We'll go through the same process again -- in between Cups we'll be good and then it will all come tumbling down again."
Meads said coach Graham Henry could resign after the inglorious defeat.
"Graham usually comes up with the answers, but he didn't this time. I think we took it too easily, to be quite honest," he said.
Rugby commentator Murray Deaker said the result was a disaster.
"Sadly we are a dumb rugby nation, we don't play the big matches well," he said, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
"We were a bunch of boofheads playing out there tonight against a French side that isn't that good. On the big occasions we choke."
Hopes had been high for a fabulous tournament performance -- and fans at the Shepherd's Arms Hotel puffed out their chests after a rousing haka, expecting the side to book their ticket to the semi-final.
But the atmosphere changed as game went on, and the pub turned deathly quiet after the final whistle.
Greg Halford, co-owner of the pub and a former captain of one of New Zealand's provincial sides, said the result would hurt business.
"People will feel empty, they'll stay at home," he said. "(Monday) will be a retailers nightmare in the city, and business will be down for a week or so."
Another local resident, former Parisian Sebastien Merval, said he had mixed feelings.
"I'll drink to celebrate France's win, then sleep to forget the Kiwi loss," he said.
Mike Copeland, a director of the Wellington Rugby Union Board, has already shelled out about 15,000 US dollars to fly to France on Monday for the rest of the tournament.
"I feel a bit dejected that the All Blacks won't be playing," he told AFP. "But we have got a weekend at a chateau in the Loire valley to look forward to."
Subject: French news