We look at five talking points from a historic weekend that saw crowds welcomed back to live sport for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown.
Trouble in the Beehive
It might be an awkward cabinet meeting on Monday after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Sports Minister Grant Robertson traded barbs following the Highlanders last gasp victory over the Chiefs in Dunedin. Robertson showed his support for the Highlanders by waving his scarf in front of the zoo while Ardern responded by sharing a picture on social media wearing a Chiefs jersey. Following the nail-biting win to the Highlanders, Ardern dropped her first tweet in over a year to remind Roberston to leave the scarf at home om Monday.
Talking of awkward situations, how will the Gatland’s next family brunch go? After concealing the news from his Dad that he had been brought onto the Highlanders bench for the clash against the Chiefs, Bryn Gatland went on to steal the match from his father’s side with a last-gasp drop goal to sink the Chiefs. Gatland said after the match that he was proud of his son, but you know he will already be plotting his revenge for when they meet again in round six.
Fans were welcomed back through the gates for the first time since the Covid-19 lockdown and they voted with their feet. More than 20,000 turned up at Forsyth Barr Stadium on a chilly Dunedin night while a sold-out crowd of 43,000 were on hand to watch the Blues dispatch the Hurricanes at Eden Park. The sight of packed stands, Mexican waves and fans running on the field were beamed around the world to offer hope to other countries still struggling with restrictions on living due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Love for Beaudie
It was the most-anticipated debut in Investec Super Rugby history, and it didn’t disappoint. Playing the full 80 minutes for the Blues against his old team the Hurricanes, Barrett laid on several class touches and stayed on long after the final whistle to sign autographs and pose for pictures with fans. The most memorable moment came off the ball though as Barrett was reluctantly pulled into a Hurricanes try celebration.
After a couple of months in lockdown, many players returned with a new look. The Blues were the most notable with Rieko Ioane, Hoskins Sotutu and Sam Nock both going for a peroxide look while skipper Patrick Tuipulotu led the team out with a closely cropped pink hair-do. Elsewhere, Vilimoni Koroi represented the peroxide look for the Highlanders and Quinn Tupaea sported the makings of what could develop into a Jack Goodhue-like mullet.