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Full credit to the strategy

Saturday wasn’t a good day for fans of large men kicking, throwing, and carrying an oblong ball around a big patch of grass.

Unless you’re doggedly disinterested in the game, you’re presumably all-too aware the All Blacks suffered their first-ever Rugby World Cup pool play loss in their opening game of the quadrennial competition against France.

A deeply unscientific sampling of social media posts suggests many AB fans fairly swiftly shifted their attention and at least temporary allegiance to the Warriors, who were facing off against the Panthers that night in what was the team’s first NRL Finals match in five years.

Alas, any hopes of a compensatory victory were dashed, and lo, a sense of dejection did settle upon the disappointed throngs.

National Party leader Christopher Luxon’s posts on X [the social media platform previously known as Twitter] seemed emblematic of the sad seesawing of emotion supporters were subject to on Saturday.

At 7.20am he posted a photo of himself looking optimistic in an AB shirt, along with the message “At the Howick Club this morning. Go the All Blacks!” There followed a long period of radio silence before he posted, at 7.14pm, “Up The Wahs” – a phrase he reportedly hadn’t been familiar with this time last week – before lapsing into silence again. [Those concerned for Luxon’s welfare will be relieved to learn he appeared to have rallied by Sunday morning, when he posted photos of himself attending the Ellerslie Fairy Festival & Pirate Party, wearing some kind of natty purple nautical topcoat].

Labour leader Chris Hipkins didn’t post anything about either match on his X account, although he reportedly joined All Blacks fans at the Upper Hutt Cossie Club with Grant Robertson, and Kieran McAnulty – neither of whom posted anything either.

Then again, there’s probably a good reason for government MPs not making too much of a sporting match during an election campaign, particularly one involving the All Blacks.

It’s long been held that the national rugby team winning or losing in the run up to an election is the difference between the government of the day retaining power or being sent packing – a perception the Act Party was probably seeking to leverage when it posted a campaign video featuring a rugby game and David Seymour intoning “For too long, previous governments have dropped the ball” just before noon on Saturday.

Whether a victory really can swing an election is disputed, even if there have been more than a few years in which the All Black’s fortunes have mirrored those of the incumbent party. There have also been studies that suggest rugby test results impact the economy – although it’s been pointed out that the correlation is similar to US swimming pool drowning deaths aligning with the number of films Nicolas Cage appears in each year. And the idea there’s a predictably depressing uptick in domestic violence following an AB defeat was dismissed as simply an urban myth by a Women’s Refuge spokeswoman prior to the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

We can at least be sure of one thing: Wairarapa Bush and their fans enjoyed a good win against King Country on Saturday, and that’s all that matters – until the next international, anyway.

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