All Blacks: 10 minutes to go at the Rugby World Cup semifinal, and the cheers went up

By Vaimoana Tapaleao, Nicholas Jones, Amelia Wade, James Wheeler

All Blacks fans celebrate the win. Photo / Brett Phibbs
All Blacks fans celebrate the win. Photo / Brett Phibbs

It happened with 10 minutes to go.

The weight of trepidation was lifted - and the cheers of support became the voice of celebration.

The All Blacks wildly celebrated a penalty in the 70th minute and the mis-firing Piri Weepu scored it - and a nation realised NZ were going to the final of the Rugby World Cup 2011.

It was party time at party central, at Eden Park, at homes and pubs up and down the country, and on the streets of Auckland as jubilant fans spilled out to share the joy of victory.

The nail-biting and expectant yelling of support turned to a constant cheer of victory.

And the Kiwis among the 60,000 fans at Eden Park were there to enjoy it: the crowd stood, cheered and embraced in the final minutes of play.

One section even chanted "four more years" at the defeated Australians, mimicking George Gregan's infamous sledge.

The victory rewarded fans for enduring a match that was extraordinarily tense in spite of the All Blacks' comfortable winning margin.

At Eden Park, Taranaki-raised Winston Hills, who has lived in Perth for 26 years, said the way the All Blacks played gave him real hope for next week. "Beating Australia is extra sweet. I'll be able to put some stick on my mates when I get back."

James Manu-Carling was wearing black last night, despite being from Australia. "I came with my brother and nephew. They were supporting the Wallabies and they're just gutted."

Minutes after the win, thousands of people at Auckland's waterfront spilled into the CBD chanting "All Blacks" as passing cars honked in support.

Thousands at the official fan zone partied late into the night, some vowing to carry on into early today.

Dimitry Strelets, of Hillsborough, was elated and said he planned to hit Auckland's bars to celebrate.

He chose to watch the game at the Cloud after he went there for the Wales match against France on Saturday.

"I came here and saw the support fans were giving their teams. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for last night," he said.

"A good win for the team. I can't say I didn't expect it though. The smile on Dan Carter's face as he was walking out [at Eden Park] was fantastic."

During the game, the 12,000 fans who packed Queens Wharf and forced the opening of the adjacent Captain Cook Wharf inspired an electric atmosphere.

Cheers erupted each time favourite All Blacks appeared on the screen. Richie McCaw, Piri Weepu, Richard Kahui and the fresh-faced Aaron Cruden were the clear favourites.

The kick-off couldn't have been a better start: All Blacks fans jeered and laughed as public enemy No 1 Quade Cooper kicked the ball out on the full.

The first All Blacks try in the fifth minute got the loudest cheer of the night as nerves were relieved and fans' faith in the team was boosted.

Ear-splitting cheers filled the Cloud when Cruden got his first drop goal for the All Blacks and restored the nation's faith in his selection.

It was much more silent each time Australia neared the try line and the crowd held their breath.

Emily Hagan of the North Shore said the atmosphere was amazing.

The weight that has been unsuccessfully shouldered by All Black teams in previous campaigns hung over the match early on.

Back at Eden Park and Richard Warren said he attended all the Eden Park pool games but last night was different.

"This is the first one where you can palpably feel people worried about what's happening on the field."

The stadium was almost full half an hour before kick-off and, as both teams warmed up, All Black fans stood and craned necks in near silence.

A white balloon with "All Blacks" written on it floated its way down the section of crowd, tipped onwards until it stopped at a yellow patch and wasn't seen again.

Despite the All Blacks getting an early lead, the tension remained - spectators leaned forward with every breakdown and stayed there until the ball was cleared or a penalty blown.

And then came that defining moment.

When Weepu slotted the penalty to take the score to 20-6 the crowd stood and roared - they could sense victory.

The All Blacks chants from then onwards were more in celebration than exhortation.

Even the yellow card shown to Sonny Bill Williams for a shoulder charge failed to elicit much protest from the crowd.

Heads began to turn towards the scoreboard as the clock approached 80 minutes, but nobody believed until fulltime.

Downtrodden Australians leaving the ground wore blank expressions.

But even some of them knew it was the right result.

Ros McCauley, who was visiting from Queensland, said the best team had won.

"We'll be here next week and we'll be cheering for the All Blacks."

- NZ Herald

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