More than 43,000 spectators attended without restriction Sunday the Auckland Blues’ victory against the Wellington Hurricanes (30-20), at the legendary Eden Park, as part of the Super Rugby Aotearoa.
This is the biggest crowd for a Super Rugby meeting in New Zealand for 15 years, while the local teams compete against each other this year, to avoid contacts and trips to Argentina, South Africa and Australia.
Auckland’s 43,000 spectators join the 20,000 gathered on Saturday in Dunedin, in the far south of the country where professional rugby celebrated its comeback in a stadium, without any restriction for spectators, to witness the success of the franchise local Otago Highlanders on the Waikato Chiefs (28-27).
As in Dunedin, despite the freshness of the start of the southern winter, spectators expressed their enthusiasm to find their way back to the stadium, in New Zealand, a country of 5 million inhabitants largely spared by the pandemic (22 deaths) and who lifted the last restrictions on Monday.
In Auckland, all eyes were on 29-year-old Beauden Barrett. The All Blacks opening or back half played their first game in the Blues tunic against their former Wellington Hurricanes team where the 2015 world champion, twice voted best player in the world (2016, 2017), played from 2011 to 2019.
In addition to Barrett, the Blues have been strengthened by attracting a living legend of New Zealand rugby, the opening half Dan Carter (38), double world champion (2011, 2015) and best player in the world on three occasions (2005, 2012 and 2015).
But if Barrett, number 15 on the back, played, and was warmly shoved by his former partners, bantering, after a missed tackle that contributed to the first try of the Hurricanes, Carter was not on the score sheet and provided his advice from the touchline.
Barrett’s contribution to the field, however, was overshadowed by the performance of the Blues pack, which won after a very hot game, and by the accuracy at the foot of Otere Black, author of 15 points and established at the half opening post.
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