Post match celebrations (indentities obsured for security reasons)
Our pleasure at being back in Kingston, Jamaica back in November 2003 was tempered by one fact. England were due to play in the rugby World Cup Final just two days later and we, me as a Met cop and my three customs colleagues, were extremely concerned as to whether we would actually find somewhere to see it.
Perhaps inevitably the bastion of Britishness; the High Commission, had it all in hand. Cassons, a bar run by the slightly dodgy looking but likeable Gary and a favourite watering hole for high commission staff and other expats, would be doing the honours.
Remember though that this was 2003 and even then satellite TV and internet communication were not quite as sophisticated as they are now. Gary had struggled to find a channel that was actually showing this showpiece event. He managed to come good with a French one so we were to have a commentary on a massive English event relayed by our French errm, cousins.
We departed our Kingston Hotel at 3am thanks to a slumbering taxi driver in the hotel grounds and on arrival at Cassons we found lots of specially recruited staff resplendent in England t-shirts and baseball caps together with a despondent looking Gary.
Andy, Tom, D and I surveyed the totally empty bar area and large dining room that Gary had turned into a mini-cinema, with some dismay. Gary was looking as if was about to slit his own throat as his bored chefs emerged from the kitchen just checking that they would still be paid even if they didn't prepare a single meal. It was almost as if the event wasn't a World Cup Final at all, but a motivational speech by Ed Milliband.
I think Gary was on the verge of offering us about twenty free breakfasts each when Phil Sinkinson, the legendary deputy High Commissioner for Jamaica and several others from the High Commission rolled in. Resplendent in England rugby shirts, they had been clearly partying elsewhere in true English tradition.
As kick off approached, the cavernous room became packed and there was also a sprinkling of Aussies clearly identifiable by virtue of their yellow shirts. We, like naughty schoolboys, were parked at the back of the room with our Red Stripe beers being constantly replenished.
Apart from D who studied French at his public school, no-one in the room could understand a word of the pre-match build up so Gary put on the 'patriotic' CD that I'd burnt from my laptop the previous day . Those not tucking into one of Gary's special breakfasts roared out Jerusalem.
The place exploded when the teams came out and due respect was shown to the Aussie national anthem in that we all stood in silence. God Save the Queen was belted out by what was in the main a very respectable and largely middle aged crowd of Brits and we were ready to go as the Red Stripes kept arriving with commendable regularity.
The only one of us four, who had more than a layman's knowledge of rugby and had played at a reasonable level, was Tom. It was perhaps unfortunate that his wife back in the UK chose the greatest moment in England's rugby history to telephone him and state that their marriage was over.
Of course at the time we were unaware of this bombshell and with Tom constantly slipping in and out of the room during the match, we just assumed he was having trouble with his prostrate. Was the timing, we later asked each other just minutes before the most important match in England's rugby history, purely coincidental?
Things didn't start too well in the match with the Aussies scoring a try after just six minutes. The handful of Aussies whooped with joy while we did the only thing patriotic Englishmen could do in such circumstances; we ordered another round.
With the conversion missed, our ordering another round seemed to inspire Jonny Wilkinson who slotted home three penalties. Although the Aussies pulled a penalty back, the roof nearly came off Cassons when Jason Robinson went over for a try. Jonny missed the conversion but we were a pretty happy bunch at half time leading 14 points to 5.
A conversation with an Aussie in the gents at half time on the merits of Neighbours and Home and Away did little for England fortunes as the Aussies pulled the score back to 14-11.
Then in the last seconds the Aussies equalised with a debatable penalty. Phil Sinkinson standing next to me slumped against the wall and groaned, 'Flipping Aussies always do this to us'. Only he didn't use the word flipping.
'Tut and me a diplomat,' he mused thoughtfully.
Well extra time is history. Jonny put us back into the lead with a penalty but the equally reliable Elton Flatley equalised for Australia with another penalty. Tension in the room was palpable. Even the Jamaican staff who didn't have a clue about rugby had stopped serving and were watching enthralled. We non-rugby types didn't have a clue as what would happen if scores were level after extra time as the minutes ticked down to the final whistle.
Then with that final whistle approaching, an England line out; England possession, the ball back to Jonny and suddenly the ball was between the posts for a drop goal. Casson's erupted.
With seconds left the Aussies restarted the game; the ball went to Mike Catt who secured his place in history by booting the ball into touch thus bringing the World Cup to England.
Cassons went crazy for a second time in under a minute. It's not often you hug and jump up and down with as distinguished a figure as the Deputy High Commissioner (later High Commissioner for Gambia) but I was, then I was hugging everybody within hugging distance. The scene was one of unbridled joy with everyone going around hugging, kissing and shaking hands with everyone else.
The hugging paused as we applauded the Aussies as they went for their medals and the Aussies stood and clapped while we erupted again as Martin Johnson went up for the cup.
Gary put on the "patriotic" CD and off we went; Land of Hope and Glory, Swing Lo Sweet Chariot, Rule Britannia, Jerusalem, God Save the Queen, You'll Never Walk Alone, We Are The Champions, Three Lions but the biggest roof raiser was John Williamson's Waltzing Matilda. As it started, the Aussies stood up and we let them have the first couple of lines then we all joined in. Towards the end of the track an 80,000 Aussie crowd at an Australian cup final joins John Williamson (and us) and it really brought out the goose pimples.
It finished and we all applauded the Aussies who bowed in our direction. It was the party to end all parties.
In any other circumstances the three of us would have taken one look at our drinks tab bill and rang our mortgage brokers but we were rugby world champions and this was a night we would always remember so we happily paid up.
It was now 8.30 in the morning and a delighted Gary asked his head chef to give us a lift back to our hotel. I think the chef must have thought Christmas had come early after we each tipped him as if he was personally responsible for the victory.
We staggered into breakfast hugging bewildered waitresses and shaking hands with the waiters, explaining that we were now Champions of the World at rugby. Even Tom's bad news from home seemed to have taken a back seat, probably due to the copious quantities of Red Stripe imbibed.
Whilst rugby may not be their thing, word clearly spread around the hotel as later in the afternoon as we emerged from our slumbers to go to work at Kingston Airport. As we walked through the lobby, the bell boys, reception staff and porters all shouted out their congratulations.
"Don't worry about a thing" sang Bob Marley, "Cos every little thing gonna be all right." We worried but Bob was right. We were the World Champions.