Hamilton has sent the All Blacks to the Rugby World Cup 2019 in style, with 23,443 people filling FMG Stadium Waikato to see the defending world champions defeat Pacific rivals Tonga 92-7.
The match was the two teams’ final competitive fixture before both depart for Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, where the All Blacks will aim to complete a hat-trick of titles.
Chad Hooker, Hamilton City Council’s Major Events Director, says the event went smoothly, with the crowd in good spirits for a rare afternoon Test match.
“Today’s match was Hamilton’s first All Blacks Test in three years, so there’s been a buzz around the city over the last few days,” Mr Hooker says.
“We’ve had both teams in town for the week, and they’ve had some well-supported community engagement events, and been enjoying some of the city’s hospitality.
“The afternoon kick-off made this a family friendly event, and it’s been great to see plenty of children in the crowd today. We’ve seen a lot of red-clad Tongan fans here today, and they’ve brought their energy and passion to our venue.”
Mr Hooker says Hamilton Police were happy with the crowd behaviour and reported no significant problems.
“Everyone’s come along with the right attitude and spirit, and that’s been great to see.”
The Council worked with BusIt to provide free public transport for fans attending today’s match – an initiative aimed at easing congestion around FMG Stadium Waikato and ensuring supporters have transport options to get to the venue.
The event had two additional features. The curtain-raiser, between the Pacific Legends and the New Zealand Barbarians Legends, featured former players – including ex-All Blacks and Pacific Island internationals – turning out in support of the MaiBody, MaiFuture initiative to raise awareness of the challenge many Pacific and Maaori people face with health issues like diabetes and obesity.
The Moment Against Silence, at 2.21pm, encouraged the crowd to make as much noise as possible to remove stigma for people reluctant to get help for mental health issues they grapple with.
FMG Stadium Waikato hosts the Tongan rugby league team on 26 October, in a match against the Great Britain Lions.