These are two stories with very different endings. Of two Davids taking on their Goliaths. One was a lamb to the slaughter. But one prevailed.
Let’s start with the lamb.
During the 2003 Rugby World Cup, I had the pleasure of watching the All Blacks get beaten twice in one afternoon. First I took in a comedy, Alone It Stands, about the day in 1978 when Irish side Munster beat the All Blacks 12-0. Kiwi winger Stu Wilson said later: “We were lucky to get nil.”
Then I sat on the steps of the Opera House to watch the World Cup semi-final between Australia and New Zealand on the big screen. The Wallabies served up a 22-10 hiding to their Trans-Tasman arch-rivals. That was back in the day when the Wallabies could do that sort of thing. It was a glorious day.
When the USA Eagles took on the All Blacks at a sold-out Soldier Field in Chicago over the weekend, fans might have hoped for a Munster repeat. If they’d known anything about it. Judging from the reports, not even the guys in the commentary box had a clue about rugby.
“Just when I think I’ve figured it out, a bunch of dudes start rolling on the ground,” tweeted one viewer. “I can’t believe the USA Rugby Eagles did so bad against New Zealand All Blacks,” lamented another.
Bad, they did. This bad.
But there was a bright spot and that was the inspired decision to get the Chicago Tribune’s dance writer Laura Molzahn to analyse the All Blacks’ haka. All this time we thought it was a war dance. Not true, says Laura.
“Their wide-legged stance, knees bent, is a ballet position: second-position plie,” she concluded.
Saudi soccer team Al-Hilal was expecting to prevail All Blacks-like over its opponents in the Asian Champions League final. The King Fahd Stadium has a reputation as imposing as Eden Park. And the day before, the Al-Hilal coach dismissed the Western Sydney Wanderers as a ‘small team’.
“I promise you we won’t lose,” Laurentiu Reghecampf assured reporters. “I’m going to see to that.”
The poor lamb didn’t count on Wanderers’ keeper Ante Covic. Much was made of US goalie Tim Howard’s 16 saves in a World Cup encounter a few months ago. Sixteen is nothing. Covic had 25 shots drilled at him during Sunday’s game and kept out every single one. Including this one five minutes from the end.
The fact he was seeing the ball like a watermelon was probably courtesy of all the lasers that were being trained on his eyeballs by Al-Hilal fans. He described the tactic as a ‘pain in the backside’. So he might like a refresher course in anatomy when he gets back home.
A nil-all draw was enough to secure us the win. It was third title lucky for the Wanderers and the first time an Australian team has carted home this trophy.
On the sideline, Al-Hilal owner Prince Abdulrahman Bin Musa’ad spat the dummy.
On the field, his players just spat. The coach was equally ungracious in defeat. “We were the better team,” he sniffed. Yeah, but we’ve got the trophy, Laurentiu.
“Dreams do come true,” said Wanderers’ coach Tony Popovic, as Parramatta erupted in spontaneous red and black dance.
Indeed they do. Welcome to your nightmare, Al-Hilal.