Halloween tricks and treats from unearthly champs

Halloween. A long and spooky evening is in store for Australia, it seems.

“Perfect weather for the All Blacks to attack,” Stuart Barnes contends.

“New Zealand by eight or nine,” Keith Wood predicts.

“New Zealand by a lot,” Matt Williams forecasts.

“Don’t go trick or treating,” Matt Cooper warns viewers.

As this particular viewer used to be one of the Cork man’s underlings, the notion couldn’t be further from my mind.

Over to Twickenham. The Red Arrows perform a flyover. The anthems are sung. Naturally there follows – yawn — the haka.

It is life, it is death, it is a monumentally self-indulgent piece of onanism which has no place at a World Cup final.

This being October 31st, all sorts of weirdos are cavorting around the place. Look, there’s a New Zealand woman dressed up as a witch! And oooh, there’s a blonde lady from Australia dressed up as Kylie Minogue! Aptly enough, sitting in the soft seats is none other than Prince Harry, a man with plenty of previous when it comes to dressing up in interesting costumes.

One shudders to think of his outfit tonight.

Away we go and within a few minutes of a game involving two other nations we’re treated, irritatingly, to a blast of ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ from the locals in the crowd. Come on. I mean, what kind of people go to a game their country isn’t playing in and – look at us, look at us! — insist on singing their own battle song? Sorry, English fans, this ain’t about you, so please refrain from trying to make it about you. You’d never get the Irish fans doing that. Oh, hang on a minute...

Dan Carter a penalty for New Zealand. Bernard Foley a penalty to level it. The camera cuts to the lady dressed up as Kylie Minogue. Hang on a minute... she is Kylie Minogue. Or is she? Conor McNamara and Stuart discuss this weighty topic for a moment before concluding she is. Bet they won’t be able to get her out of their heads tonight.

The half wears on and even to this rugby ignoramus it’s clear there’s only going to be one winner. Years of watching a team sport, whatever the sport, equips one with an eye for recognising the superior side in a match. The All Blacks are smoother and more controlled, their first touch cleaner, their ability to do the simple things correctly markedly more pronounced.

They have the momentum. They have the locomotion. (Sorry.) At half-time it’s 16-3 to the holders. Time for a nice cup of tea. Time for a switch of channels and the full-times from the Premier League. Time, in defiance of Matt Cooper, to go trick or treating in my home-made Marty Morrissey outfit. Having scared several old ladies I return after a couple of hours with a bag full of swag.

Fortunately TV3’s ad break is only finishing. Back in studio it’s as though it’s general election day and the experts are making an early call on the make-up of the next government. New Zealand are “clinical, accurate, consistent,” says Keith. Australia’s lineout and restart have failed, laments Matt Williams. He doesn’t know how much they have left in the tank, even at this stage, but it could end up “a big win” for the favourites.

The All Blacks are leading 21-3 when Ben Smith decides to pull an Umaga/O’Driscoll on Drew Mitchell, upon which everything changes. They’re down to 14 men for the next 10 minutes. Australia should be so lucky. Lucky, lucky, lucky. (Sorry again.) Within 30 seconds David Pocock has a try.

Tevita Kuridrani adds another before Smith has served his sentence. Improbably only four points separate the protagonists and Ms Minogue is no doubt – apologies, I’m clean out of Kylie songs for puntastic purposes by now.

New Zealand do what the better teams always do. They maintain their composure and play their way back into the argument. Dan Carter, the unstoppable scoring machine, steadies the ship and the winners finish with a flourish.

Liam Toland, one of the stars of TV3’s coverage, nutshells it neatly. “There’s a million reasons why New Zealand won. Quality setpiece. Buckets of physicality. And ultimately you need to have skill.” The men in black have the lot. Scary alright.

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