One lucky Lions supporter was the recipient of some good old fashioned Kiwi hospitality – from the mum of an All Black star. Sandra Wihongi met the Lions supporter at her local rugby club and discovered that he was planning to park up and sleep the night in his van. She decided that that just wouldn’t do.
Mrs. Wihongi called her husband and told him she was bringing someone home and when she was asked who it was, she replied, ‘A Lions supporter.’ The fan, named Alex Edwards, had no idea who he was staying with, even after being introduced to All Black Rieko and Blues flanker Akira. Edwards did remark on the size of the brothers, and their father Ed said that he would see them play the following night. Edwards thought that game might be for the local Ponsonby club to which Ed Ioane replied, ‘No, they’re starting for the Blues.’
Edwards decided to do some research on his hosts. “I googled them and remembered seeing them in the Olympics. Then it kind of twigged. I felt like a bit of a lemon,” Edward told The Telegraph. “Everyone in New Zealand worships the ground they walk on and I pitched up on tod and didn’t have a clue. It was a bit of a shock.”
Edwards watched Rieko score a try for the Blues and Akira play a strong game and was able to partake in the family post-match analysis of the television replay on the Ioane couch. The pair’s performances were impressive enough to earn Rieko a call up to the All Black squad, while Akira was added as injury cover.
After two days at the Ioane house, Edwards rejoined the Lions tour, but kept in touch with the Ioane family, sending them texts to congratulate Rieko on his test call up and engage in a bit of good-natured ribbing following the Lions victory over the New Zealand Maori, who both the Ioane brothers played for.
Edwards was even able to share a drink with Ioane’s parents at their rugby club following Rieko’s superb two-try performance in the first test at Eden Park. Edwards is understandably over the moon about his lucky encounter, but as he relates, the luck cuts both ways.
“They might see me as a lucky charm the way the two boys are playing! We were with Sandra and Ed down at Ponsonby having a few drinks after the game yesterday, and what the boys are up to is quite something,” said Edwards.
“They’re just really lovely people.”