By WYNNE GRAY
Late in the second spell, a huge roar rose from the Christchurch crowd as All Blacks lock Chris Jack surged forward from a maul.
He made only a couple of metres, but it was the hint of some action, some onslaught to break the monotony of the match and the chill of the bleak evening which drew the reaction from the crowd.
It was a beast of a night, a brute of a test for the spectators to endure.
Even the giant video screen went on the blink as the All Blacks beat the Wallabies 12-6 in a match which resembled a hybrid contest of Forceback and Bullrush.
For much of the match, Andrew Mehrtens shaded Stephen Larkham with his tactical kicks, while the packs teapotted in the middle of the ground as extended periods of aerial bombardment went on.
The forwards were allowed back into the match when the backs either grew tired of that tactic or found touch.
Had the result gone the other way, the Big Chill would have overtaken the whole country. The test proved little - because options were so restricted - except that the All Blacks were better on the night.
However, out of the polar conditions, the men in black generated all the warmth with the spirit of their victory, the resolution of their defence, the grit that takes them to Sydney on August 3 and the chance of regaining the Bledisloe Cup.
Earnest optimism afterwards tried to paint the test as a thing of beauty, an old-fashioned slog, no quarter-asked-no-quarter-given throwback. If that is the case, throw it back.
The only charm was in the All Blacks victory. Through no fault of the players, the game was destined to be a dour-grim battle against the elements as much as each other.
Conditions were dreadful. Numbing cold wind and driving rain greeted two sides intent on attacking rugby.
Initial efforts showed those methods were dangerous and impractical. The weather won.
Referee Jonathan Kaplan had never seen such atrocious conditions for a game. Wallaby fullback Chris Latham had never played in worse.
"Midway through the second half when the sleet started to fall, I looked at 'Keff' [Toutai Kefu] and he looked almost white," Latham said. "It was freezing."
About the same time, Jack made his mini-rumble. Anticipation rasped from the throats of those not paralysed by the cold. They had only seen Andrew Mehrtens collect four penalties against two from Matthew Burke.
The Wallabies had made a break or two, the All Blacks had not threatened the Wallaby line.
They had a couple of chances with lineouts 10m from the visitors' line. From the first the All Blacks were penalised for obstruction in a driving maul, from the second they were penalised for delaying the throw as the crowd noise interfered with the call.
Between infrequent emotional eruptions, the crowd watched the ball kicked 145 times in general play, a staggering statistic in these days when possession is a treasured component of this recycled rugby.
They watched Australia win the rucks and mauls 91-49, but lose the turnovers 28-19 as Richard McCaw excelled. They saw the All Blacks lose seven of Mark Hammett's lineout deliveries.
As the lineout wobbles continued and Mark Robinson went to the sinbin with seven minutes left, minds raced back to Sydney last year.
Where was Kefu, the No 8 who had nailed the All Blacks with his late try?
He was there and regularly menacing again, but while brains may have recalled Sydney, bodies went back to last year in Cape Town.
That evening was a shocker as well. Table Mountain allegedly existed near Newlands, but fog prevented proof, while rain all week had saturated the ground. The All Blacks tackled without blemish and took a 12-6 victory - a huge win for their defensive patterns.
It was the same on Saturday night, and like that Newlands test, conditions were much grimmer at the park than they looked on television. But a man down, the All Blacks line held.
Adding to the drama was the giant video screen.
After a few minutes it succumbed and it was not until the second half that it resumed duty, with a half-size picture. For reasons best known to its operators, it also used running time for the game, instead of stopping the clock when Kaplan signalled injuries.
The crowd had no idea how long was left as the clock ticked deep into overtime. The All Blacks knew, though, as Justin Marshall hacked a punt into touch.
After showing wet-weather naivety at Carisbrook, they brought wisdom, judgment and commitment to Christchurch.