New Zealand doesn’t lose very often at rugby, so when it does, it really hurts.
As the All Blacks were crushed 38-21 by England in London, the post-mortems down under were starting almost as quickly as the partying in pubs around Twickenham.
New Zealand is rightly proud of its rugby team. It is respected around the world and feared in much of it. After the All Blacks won the first World Cup back in 1987, it had to endure growing taunts that it choked on the global stage by failing to win the next five tournaments. It put that to right in 2011 by winning on home soil.
It continued winning. Going into the weekend, the team had been unbeaten for 20 games and discussions were starting as to whether this was the best rugby team of all time.
Well, England ended that unbeaten run in fine style and whether the debate will continue remains to be seen.
It was a fine performance by the team in white. The hosts started well and were 15-0 ahead early in the second half. The All Blacks rallied and almost leveled the scoreline by taking the next 14 points. England fans had been in that position before and fully expected that a defeat was coming.
But it wasn’t. England reapplied the pressure to end up recording their record win against their fearsome opponent.
"I would just like to congratulate England on a tremendous performance," said All Black coach Steve Hansen. "They thoroughly enjoyed their victory today and they should be very proud of what they achieved. They played some magnificent football. At 15-14 we certainly asked questions of them and they responded as a good team. We don't have an excuse — we just got beaten by a better side."
The English media, which had seen its team recently defeated by South Africa and Australia and was expecting a third Southern Hemisphere triumph, was as elated as the vast majority of the 82,000 fans present.
"The best team in world rugby, the best in world sport, some say, smashed by a tidal wave of white,” gushed the Daily Telegraph. “Twickenham has known many great occasions in its long and distinguished history but there have been few to top this."
"It wasn't the fact of the victory which was so astonishing, but the manner of it…There was nothing remotely fortuitous about this triumph. It was close to a humiliation for New Zealand."
The Observer said something similar. "This was an All Blacks team unbeaten this year, rated so highly that they were on the brink of being acclaimed the best ever. Untouchable. Until now. This should be a moment to savour, the precious unveiling of a priceless piece of rugby."
The New Zealand Herald could barely register what had just happened. “The unbeaten record has gone. The season has ended in stunningly bad fashion with England bursting into astonishing life at Twickenham to not only beat the All Blacks – but to beat them well and to beat them playing inspired rugby.”
For New Zealand, it is time for a break. The team doesn’t play much in the first half of 2013 but has a series against France at home in June and then the southern hemisphere championship against South Africa, Australia and Argentina shortly after. There will be plenty of chances for this team to reassert its dominance. Oh, and there is a return to England next November.