It is a case of spot the All Black fan in downtown Auckland today as the red tide of Lions fans rolls in to take over the city leading up to tonight’s first test with the All Blacks.
The atmosphere is electric and jovial and the distinct sounds of bagpipes can be heard drifting throughout the waterfront. If you didn’t know it before you certainly can’t miss it now. The Lions have arrived and the test series is about to begin.
On every corner, in every café, and in every bar there is a sea of red. You could be forgiven for thinking you were in the heart of Glasgow or Cardiff. Everywhere you turn there are friendly Lions fans smiling from ear to ear enjoying what Auckland has to offer.
Lions' fans told Māori Television they were absolutely delighted with the hospitality in Auckland and around the country, “It’s something special, once in a lifetime experience and everyone is so friendly,” says English and Lion’s supporter Chris.
Husband and wife duo Ken and Anne Robson from England did not let the light rain put them off from taking in the sights and the fan zone this morning.
“It’s an absolutely fantastic atmosphere around here, a sea of red everywhere. I have found everyone all the locals absolutely accommodating because you think you are going to win, but I think we will give you a good old game today,” says Ken.
Ken’s wife Anne breaks into a chuckle at her husband’s statement and adds “I am just going along for the weather because it’s just like England.”
James Buckley and his friends have made the trip to Aotearoa from Pontypridd in Wales and were in high spirits ahead of the match. “If the Lions win tonight they will win the third test,” says Buckley.
Buckley and his friends have dived into their tour boots and all, soaking up as much of New Zealand as they can. The boys will be lacing up their boots for Ponsonby Rugby Club this afternoon before taking in the test match at Eden Park. The friends will then venture down to Rotorua to take in some Māori Culture.
The few All Black fans that could be found among the scores of Lions fans were themselves taken aback with the atmosphere and like their Lions counterparts were full of praise.
“Everyone is in great spirits, a bit of banter with each other. But where are all the All Black supporters?” says Shaz Harrison (Ngāpuhi).
All Black fan Matthew Francis says “The Atmosphere is amazing it gives you goosebumps, I’m just soaking it all up."
Matthew and his friend Curtis Te Kotahi were confident the boys in black could do the business, both agreeing that being at home and the All Blacks dominance in recent years gives them a slight advantage.
Their sentiments were backed by Pauline Koopu, “I think they [Lions] are in for a shock, they have been lulled into a false sense of security.”
Auckland and New Zealand can be proud of what they have done says Lions fan Chris, “This is excellent absolutely world class you couldn’t ask for more, win or lose I will take away some fantastic memories.”
Flower of Scotland played by Piper - Neil Marriott