As I’m sure you’re aware rugby is huge in New Zealand. And rightly so, they produce some of the finest Rugby players in the world. Being somebody who played tag rugby at school about 3 times, cried at football practice when I was about 8 years old and got away with standing on the side line at school during football matches, you’ll soon come to conclusion that, in the past, I haven’t followed traditional ball sports.
(Me just before crying at football practice all those years ago)
I had the opportunity to go to a semi-final game of Rugby (Crusaders vs. Chiefs) and I thought “what the hell, I’m experiencing so many firsts on the other side of the world, why not make rugby one of them.” Given the only facts I confidently know about rugby is that the ball is a funny shape and the goal posts are different to those in football, it was all set to be a fun evening of me relentlessly asking questions about why things were happening.
I must add here that I have been to Twickenham Stadium, a holy grail in rugby circles. The atmosphere was electric and the place was just alive with excitement. Rihanna, you were amazing and I hope you return there one day.
(Me and my friend Charlie at Twickenham. Note a lack of rugby clothes.)
Anyway, onto the game. I was very excited in all honesty. It probably helped that the guy I went with, Devon, is a diehard rugby fan who I’m fairly sure has mud running through his veins instead of blood and his bones are made from rugby goal posts. So his eagerness for the match probably influenced me somewhat. The weather, of course, was freezing cold. I am, however, fully aware rugby is a winter sport and its part of the fun, so it didn’t dampen my spirits.
There were cheerleaders and horses before the game and it was all rather jolly. We were supporting The Crusaders. I know very little about the sport, but even I could see that it was a tough game for them. The ball hardly left their half. But when it did, they capitalised on it and managed to make the most of the opportunities to score and win 27-13.
I made two small observations.
1. I can’t believe how brutal rugby is. The sound of humans thudding into each other is a distinct one.
2. Rugby players produce a lot of steam. I couldn’t help but wonder if I stuck my ironing to their backs would it save me a job tomorrow. I guess we’ll never know.
I got really into the game. Strangely, it took me back to my swimming days when you’d be stood at the side of the pool screaming and spurring on one of your friends. That’s the beauty of sport – it brings out that competitive side in us and the desire to win.
I was shouting for a team of strangers to win a game I knew nothing about. Should I have booed when the Chiefs scored, given my situation and knowledge? No. Did I? Hell yes.
It really was brilliant. It’s likely I’ll head to more rugby matches here, being in the wrong time zone for pretty much everything else in the world (tonight I’ll be watching the Formula One into the early hours for example) you must make do with what you have. But, given how much I enjoyed the game, I’ll be looking forward to them.
**after the Crusaders game, the other semi final was played over in South Africa. The Lions won that match and it means that the Crusaders are off to South Africa for the final. I actually had the pleasure of meeting and chatting to the Crusaders coach this morning as he headed to the airport for an early flight to South Africa. Isn’t it great how the world works sometimes. Good luck Crusaders, I for one will be eagerly watching.
*** I also won’t win any awards for sports photographer of the year. It was my first ever attempt, they say practice makes perfect.
To see how my adventure pans out , follow my Instagram here.