The Waratahs ran out onto Eden Park on Saturday night wearing their alternate strip with the blue and white hoops, which are the Auckland colours, and it was like right, they're really trying to mess with us, what else have they got?

Israel Folau is what else. He's a beautiful giant of a man who flies through the air, catching and holding the ball close into his body like he's a gannet swallowing fish, and he did it many, many times in the game. Helped by what seemed to be a Blues policy to keep out of his way while he was doing it.

He scored from this, leaping twice a high as anyone else to snatch and swallow the ball out of the air, and then forcing it down behind the tryline. When he jumped, the Blues defender, Melani Nanai, who is a prince of the aerial ballet himself when compared against ordinary mortals, also jumped but when Nanai landed he found himself facing completely the wrong way. He looked puzzled: where was everybody? He threw his hands in the air, in exasperation, in submission, in awe.

Folau is that good. He is also narrow-mindedly, outspokenly anti-gay, in a way that helps legitimise bigotry and therefore imperils the safety of gay boys and men everywhere. So you can take his rugby skills and stuff them up his jumper, which is basically, after that try, what the Blues did.


Folau didn't score any more. He's imperious when he does that one thing, and he kept doing it, but the Blues got over their fear of him and by the end of the game he had nothing. He was gone.

They were all gone. The Blues won again, clinging to their lead to the desperate end. It's always going to be like this, isn't it? They've won four times in a row now, their best consecutive record in a season in eight years, but every one of those wins has been down to the last whistle. They really sweat it out and they make sure we do too. But, you know, wow. Bravo.

I was going to watch this game in a corporate box with the board of the Blues. The nobs. That would have been fun. I got invited to be a plus one by someone they'd invited, but when I said yes actually, I would write about the experience, they went oh no, that's not going to work.

Why not?

I didn't want to embarrass the person who invited me so I went and sat in the stands like everyone else, but I'm looking forward to an invitation in my own right. Hey, you board members, you can fill my head with who knows whatever and I'll promote you to the world. Promise.

Holy hell the Blues are good now. They scored first, and second, and third. They put 17 points on the Waratahs, and along the way Ma'a Nonu completely flattened their supposed star first five eight, Bernard Foley, and then Dalton Papali'i completely flattened him too, and on it went.

Some of their tries were so peachy. Nonu charging at the line with the ball, sees flanker Tom Robinson, who's way out wide, punch the air once to get his attention, and Nonu fires the ball for Robinson to run onto, who scorches over to score.

Nonu's the best at that, firing the ball across the field, and they're all good at running onto it. That takes skill, confidence and lots of practice, and it's exciting to see, not just for the thing itself, but because it tells us, the fans: we can have confidence too.


Having relegated myself to the stands, I thought I would sit among Waratahs fans, see how they behaved, but I couldn't find any. Maybe the rain earlier in the day put them off. Lots of Blues fans, though, getting all excited at that first 17 points, slumping back to the usual better-be-careful-not-to-care-too-much defensiveness as the Waratahs scored the next 14, and before long it was 22-21 and not looking good.

But it was good. The Blues got to 32-29 and won the game in the middle of the field through the forwards grinding the opposition into the turf. The Waratahs tried so hard to break that up, but the Blues tried harder. It was the most thrilling four long minutes of boring grunty rugby imaginable.

Best moment? Ma'a Nonu's try half an hour earlier. The clever centre TJ Faiane flicks him the ball and the line is open but it's a long way off and you can see him thinking (yes, you can see these things from high in the stands), he's running hard and he's thinking: I'm Ma'a Nonu, there's the tryline and I've got the ball and if I can't score from this I do not deserve to have my job but my oath it's a long way away.

When I used to coach kids, we had a big guy in the team, he was 12 and a kilo heavier than David Tua at the time, and he loved his rugby and we, the coaches, loved him. I'll call him Jackson.

The day came when Jackson got the ball with no one in front of him, but the tryline was a good 70 metres away, so he ran. Jackson ran and ran. Defenders caught up to him but he fended them off, easy as, laughing as he did it, perhaps a little hysterically, but still, and he ran some more.

But somewhere near the 22 mark, even though there were no more defenders, Jackson's heaving lungs told him no more, and he just threw the ball in the air and collapsed on the ground.

He was fine, after a bit. But he didn't score.

The coach in me was going hey, what about the passing? We practised passing! We practised passing so much!

But that wasn't it. Jackson's run was the best I've ever seen a rugby player make, because of what he called on to do it, because of the size of the gap between what he did and what people thought he could do. It was glorious, a feat beyond imagination, although possibly not beyond Jackson's own imagination.

Ma'a Nonu ran and ran and defenders closed on him from all over and he veered, kept himself ahead, figuring the angles as he ran, and then with five metres to go he fell over.

But not like Jackson. Nonu fell in a forward slide, very intentionally, and his momentum carried him over for the try. Crowd goes berserk, and rightly so.

Jackson's not going to be an All Black. I don't know if he even still plays. But Ma'a Nonu, he played that whole game on Saturday and he was storming till the end, doing everything right. I'd pick him in my team. The bloke's a certifiable hero.

You want to be catching some of this, btw. The Blues aren't back at Eden Park for five weeks now, not till they meet the Hurricanes. Game for the ages, that one.