An estimated 20,000 crowd gathered at Forsyth Bar Stadium in Dunedin on Saturday to watch the host side Otago Highlanders host the Waikato Presidents in the Super Rugby Aotearoa competition.
With a face mask barely on the horizon and with enthusiastic fans embracing each other with pleasure when points were scored, the successful return to Otago’s natural position, which overcame visitor 28-27 with a final landing of the Brian Gatland replacement.
To make the victory even sweeter, Gatland is the son of Warren bosses, who will take charge of British and Irish lions on their planned tour of South Africa next year.
Before the match, Gatland, who resigned as Wales coach after last year’s World Cup, had spoken to many when he told the BBC that “people are confused about being able to watch some live sports”.
Not happy with the result, his team was deprived of victory after advancing 27-25 with only a minute left on the clock.
“I’m not happy we lost the match but did well for him. I don’t care if it’s my son or not. I’m going away and taking a look at it but I’m still disappointed with the result,” said Gatland.
New Zealand lifted nearly all Covid-19 restrictions earlier this week as no new cases of coronaviruses have been reported for more than 20 consecutive days and with a relatively low death toll of 22 since the epidemic began.
It paved the way for the fans to return to the stadiums in the rugby-obsessed country, with Eden Park having a capacity of 50,000 spectators as the Oakland Blues team hosts Hurricanes in the second match of the weekend Sunday.
The major rugby super league, which includes teams from Australia, South Africa, Argentina and Japan, stopped in mid-March in response to the global epidemic.
Meanwhile, New Zealand’s five New Zealand rugby super teams play in their internal Aotearoa competition, which is the New Zealand Maori word, and the competition, which is broadcast to a global TV audience starving in a busy atmosphere.
Taiwan, which reported only seven coronavirus deaths, allowed fans to enter baseball fields, but only 50% capacity with social gaps between fans.