A fan at a $3000-a-head dinner had a heart attack and died before the Rugby World Cup semifinal last night.

The 55-year-old man, who had travelled to New Zealand for the game, collapsed about 7.30pm as about 500 diners sat down to eat.

St John Ambulance staff said they were called to help the man and found him in "full cardiac arrest". They spent about 40 minutes unsuccessfully trying to revive him.

Diners in the Eden Park Pavilion were stunned when the man collapsed.


They were unsure about the man's condition and continued eating as St John staff arrived to help. The dinner was accompanied by a speech from former All Black Andrew Mehrtens.

Those in the Egmont Room at the pavilion included millionaire entrepreneur Seeby Woodhouse.

His business manager Karen Morfett said those enjoying the hospitality focused on their meals and Mehrten's delivery on stage in an attempt to preserve the dignity of the man being helped.

"Everyone just sort of carried on," Morfett said. "It was right there in the middle of the room. The paramedics didn't give up. They were amazing."

Morfett said St John Ambulance staff carried out CPR throughout and gave the man adrenalin in a bid to save his life. Paramedics also tried using a defibrillator to start the man's heart again.

She said guests were appalled when they saw the man carried from the pavilion on a stretcher. "It was very sad. Everyone was very sad."