Tim Hume: The rugby was ugly but victory was beautiful

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The Independent Online

Recently the living room of our Islington flat has become a far-flung annexe of the "Stadium of Four Million". Shortly before each kick-off, a dozen of the 60,000-odd fellow New Zealanders in the UK have shown up to yell at the television in appreciation of our country's finest export.

There's something novel about watching our homeland, so often peripheral, taking centre stage; our vowels intruding into British broadcasts; our players showcasing the exuberant running rugby that is their hallmark.

Yesterday, though, in a pub alongside scores of Kiwis and a mouthy Cockney in a beret, the carnival mood vanished before a textbook demonstration of the other noted trait of our national game.

Every New Zealander recognised, with growing dread, the familiar symptoms. Spirited French tormentors playing the game of their lives. Fifteen New Zealanders looking like black ghosts. The curse had returned.

Then, somehow, against the inviolable laws of the sporting universe, the All Blacks won the World Cup. The joy was overwhelming, but more so the relief. The French had played a blinder, the All Blacks like mortals, but mortals who had somehow subverted a decades-old curse. The rugby was ugly, but the victory? Beautiful.