World Cup final countdown: Where to watch the action

By Don Kavanagh

Galbraith's Alehouse in Mt Eden is a beer-lovers first choice. Photo / Herald on Sunday
Galbraith's Alehouse in Mt Eden is a beer-lovers first choice. Photo / Herald on Sunday

It has been brilliant hasn't it? Streets full of cars bedecked with flags, visitors with exotic, foreign accents and a train system that is the laughing stock of the world.

But apart from the public transport woes of the opening weekend, the Rugby World Cup has been a great success. When was the last time you saw people walking our streets with smiles on their faces and jerseys proclaiming their allegiances? Indeed, when was the last time you saw Welsh people walking around town and smiling?

All that remains now is for the last game to be played and the last songs to be sung. And let's hope the last song is the rather unmusical cry of "All Blacks, All Blacks".

Unless you're very rich or very lucky, you - like most of us - will be watching the game from outside the perimeter of Eden Park. Home might be an option, but it's not often we get a major sporting event on our doorsteps, so let's get out and get amongst it for the final weekend, rather than simply staring at the idiot box for two hours from your couch.

The big question is where?

Many people will have their own favourite spots to watch sporting events, and that's fine. But for those who don't, here is a rough guide to some likely spots that will be fizzing like a well-shaken beer bottle come final time tonight.

Auckland is full of places that are ready, able and all-too-willing to see people step through the door to watch the big game. The problem is finding a place with enough space and enough big screens, so it's worth checking out some of these.

The Dominion
An official RWC bar and a rather large one, too. As it's within cooee of Eden Park, the Dominion offers genuine atmosphere, as well as a place to sit back and enjoy the game from the best seat in the house.

It might be a bit full at first but it's worth the wait for a table. A great menu means you can make the final a long event, perhaps booking for dinner at 7pm before staying to watch the 9pm kick-off. And the menu is very good indeed; I really enjoyed the steak.

The drinks menu is excellent: it has the Monteith's range of beers and a decent wine list. So why not give the sponsors their due and drink in an official bar?
234 Dominion Rd

The Clare Inn
One of my favourite bars anywhere, this is atmosphere central when it comes to the rugger.

A big marquee out the back has doubled the capacity of this exquisite pub and the service has managed to remain good-natured and efficient, despite the madding crowds taking up my space at the bar. The food has been streamlined for the RWC to get it out quickly, but it is still quality fare and the drink is as good as ever it was.

I would suggest getting in early and it's probably a clever move to ring in advance to check on how crowded it is. Don't expect to sit for the game, as seating is limited to make more room for customers.
278 Dominion Rd

An odd selection, perhaps, but few places are as well equipped to show a major sports event. It has a huge screen in the back bar, and a number of smaller (but still quite large) screens scattered throughout the pub, so that means everyone can see the action. The drink is pretty good (the prices even better) and the food is lovely.

A word of caution - this is not the sort of bar that caters for the more demanding punter; it's an unashamedly local, working-class bar, but one that is blessed with a spectacular amount of space and a huge appetite for sport.
1130 Great North Rd, Pt Chevalier

Northcote Tavern, Northcote Point
A historic, elegant and spacious bar, with plenty of room to watch the game. The food looks lovely, the prices look even better, plus it has a decent wine list and a nice range of beers on tap.

It also offers the option of enjoying the more intimate surrounds of the Highlander Bar or rarking it up in the Callan Sports Bar. Both have their charms, although the Highlander's sense of history and fine architecture probably gets my vote.

Close to the Harbour Bridge, too, for those who want to avoid the rush and worry of going into town for the big night.
37 Queen St, Northcote Point

Sale Street Bar
Probably the best pub in the city centre, this is a must for the big game.

Acres of space mean it won't get too crowded and plenty of staff mean you won't have to wait too long for a drink if it does fill up.

A great wine list is just the entree here; the food is great, the service excellent and the beers brewed on the premises are fantastic, particularly the Nana Bennett's Xmas Pudding Ale and the Churchill stout. Add to that a fantastic deck area (well-heated, too, in case the weather is against us) and a bar big enough to hold a sizeable crowd without feeling crowded and you have a perfect spot for the big match.

The odd decorative tree on the deck can get in the way of the screens from some angles, but four big screens scattered around the venue mean you shouldn't have much trouble finding a possie to watch the action.
7 Sale St, Auckland city

Galbraith's Alehouse
The ultimate beer venue, Galbraith's has been showing live matches on two big screens during the tournament. With restaurant-standard food, plenty of room and a truly great selection of beers, this is the ideal spot for the beer-loving rugby-watcher.

It's a good spot to arrive early, get a good dinner then watch the big game. It's within walking distance of Eden Park, too, so the atmosphere should be good inside and outside the bar. And what better place to watch rugby's high mass than in the cathedral to beer?
2 Mt Eden Rd

The Nation's Clubrooms
The most upmarket sports bar in the city, this Sky City bar is a great spot to enjoy the rugby. More screens than the Nasa space centre and plenty of room mean it's hard to miss the action.

The drinks selection is okay, but where the Clubrooms really stand out is the food - it isn't fine-dining fare but it's incredibly good value and the menu is perfect for the big match - think wedges, burgers and pies. Also the fact that it's part of the Casino complex means it's one of the safest spots in town and it tends to be a bit more well-behaved than some other bars I can think of.
SkyCity, Auckland

Around the North Island

There are far too many good bars around the country to list, so I'll keep this brief.

No doubt most people "down the line" will already have their favourite spots lined up, so here are some suggestions for visitors and occasional revellers.

The capital is blessed with great bars, so finding a good place isn't the problem. Beer-lovers have the likes of the Malthouse and the sublime Hashigo Zake and traditionalists might prefer spots like Lovelocks and the Southern Cross. But when it comes to rugby, the pick of the bunch is Four Kings, a multi-level sports bar that has about 70 screens across its various areas. Good food, too, and the drinks list is pretty impressive but the main reason to go there is that it is a real rugby pub - one of the owners is All Black legend and all-round rugby genius Christian Cullen.

Shed 2 is a prime spot for the game here. It has a good selection of beer (including the local brew), a great wine list and a great menu. And if it all gets so tense that you can't watch, you can simply gaze out on the Pacific Ocean to regain your inner equilibrium.

Palmerston North
No competition here, really, it has to be the Celtic Inn, purveyors of fine beer, great food and an electric atmosphere since 1992. A big screen, a friendly atmosphere and some of the best-kept Guinness in the country will see you through the game. New Plymouth Again, there is really only one option - Frederic's. A great spot for drinks, it also has a fantastic kitchen and the food is restaurant standard. And you have to love a bar that gives quizzes and poker the biff and replaces them with games of Battleships.

Hamiltonians are spoiled for choice, really, as they have a variety of decent bars to watch the rugby. For a touch of class, try The Bank, a beautiful old building that has been lovingly preserved and serves great food and drinks. Otherwise the Zone in the Sky City complex is a sure bet - plenty of screens, plenty of staff and a safe, comfortable environment to catch the action. If you fancy something a bit wilder, the Outback is a student bar that should be going off like a bottle rocket.

Again, plenty of choice here, but De Bier Haus is a little cracker. A Belgian beer bar, it has a good range of "standard" beers on tap, as well as a mouth-watering selection of specialty brews. The food is good as well.
For big-screen action try Major Tom's at Mt Maunganui - it's not everyone's cup of tea, but the atmosphere will be electric.

Hopefully ,you'll find somewhere worth visiting and hopefully you'll go out and enjoy yourselves. The event is leaving these shores but rugby never will and it would be great to see some of the enthusiasm and energy generated by the competition carry over to our annual rugby set-tos, from the ITM Cup to Super Rugby. This is our last chance to dance as far as the Rugby World Cup goes, but remember - whatever the result and however gutted or elated you might be at the end of the 80 minutes - it's only a game. What has shone through in the past six weeks is Kiwis' willingness to welcome our international visitors, and party. Cheers to that.

- Herald on Sunday

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