Saturday marked the return of rugby union in New Zealand as Bryn Gatland’s last-minute drop-goal sealed a narrow victory for Highlanders against his father’s Chiefs side.
Forsyth Barr Stadium was almost full with approximately 20,000 fans in attendance to watch Highlanders emerge 28-27 winners in the new Super Rugby Aotearoa tournament’s curtain-raiser.
Social distancing measures were effectively deemed unnecessary due to the country’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic – New Zealand has seen just 22 deaths and has not had an active case in three weeks.
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Before kick-off, New Zealand’s Sports Minister Grant Robertson expressed his gratitude to the nation’s essential workers for their efforts in containing the virus.
While the sight of fans embracing and celebrating together may come as a pleasant surprise to fans in Europe, who are becoming accustomed to watching sports played behind closed doors, Chiefs coach Warren Gatland will have had mixed feelings about his son’s surprise appearance for Highlanders.
Bryn Gatland was called up to the bench as a late replacement for Josh Ioane, and he kept his promotion to the matchday squad a secret from his father, the former Wales boss.
“I found out I was on bench on Thursday,” he told Sky Sports. “I had dinner with dad and mum last night and halfway through he got a text to tell him I was on the bench tomorrow. I didn’t want to give the gameplan away!”
“If anyone was going to do it, it was going to be him,” Warren Gatland said on the winning drop-goal.
“I don’t care if he is my son or not, I am still disappointed about the result.”
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