Commentary in the election campaign was replete with painful and clunky rugby metaphors. Time for revenge.
The pick of pundits and pollsters alike, Ireland were welcomed by a huge turnout at the Stade de France and swiftly issued a notice of motion. They had a manifesto. They had a mandate. They were here to entrench some provisions and with the permission of the house they intended to push them through under urgency.
What the Cranberry caucus didn’t account for was an All Black opposition that knew their portfolios inside out.
In the opening session, petition after petition was rebuffed by the green benches, ending in a speaker’s ruling that saw Richie Mo’unga mark the first troika of points into the quarter-final Hansard. Jordie Barrettt added another three before his brother Beauden sought the call. He dinked one over the dispatch box and just kept going, racing through the readings to Leicester Fainga’anuku and all the way to royal assent. Mo’unga made the necessary two-point amendment from a tricky angle and the All Blacks were in front by 13 to nil.
The Irish looked shocked. Anxiety rippled through the hustings. Might they seek a prorogation? But father of the house Johnny Sexton would have none of that. A motion of no-confidence was survived and the swing accordingly came. Suddenly, Aaron Smith was ordered to leave the house. The All Black junior whip withdrew and apologised but it was too late for that as the Irish seized the balance of power. When the adjournment came, New Zealand led 18-17, tight as the fist of a fiscal forecaster.
The members returned to the chamber and New Zealand set about the business of state, opening up an eight-point lead. The Irish were not done, however. Bound by a commitment to collective responsibility and braced by a three-line whip, they closed the gap again. Then, for the All Blacks, disaster. A whistleblower. Another ejection from the chamber, this time Codie Taylor, for engaging in dirty politics (he meddled with a private member’s bill). The press gallery scrambled to understand but the speaker knew his standing orders so they all sat down.
The members were exhausted: 30 constitutional crises scattered across the field. And yet more than ever in touch with the grass roots. The black wall resisted the green waves. They tried everything: amendments, points of order, lengthy submissions, supplementary order papers. But they could not move the Dáil. New Zealand filibustered back, and that was enough.
The commentary cynics and gallery doubters had been proved wrong. From across the spectrum they came. Leftwing, rightwing, down the middle. Leaping through the Overton window. The backbench had heckled, interjected, kept the energy high. The front bench was all about confidence and supply. The returning officer spoke: New Zealand 28 – Ireland 24.
The work programme is not done yet. The Argentina Prefu awaits. The campaign continues. For now, however, the All Black ayes have it, while the Irish ayes smile no more.