A Unique Day as a Rugby Fan

Posted on October 16, 2011

I had a rather unusual day yesterday, completeley taken up by watching a game that I am only moderately familiar with. That game is rugby union. I have always loved playing most sports as a kind of Jack of all, master of none, including cricket (moderate/poor), football (useful), badminton (not bad), golf (useful), tennis (poor) and table tennis (moderate/poor) all of which I have had brief love affairs with before giving up like a spoilt child and moving on to something else when I can’t get any better, golf being one of the the most notable. I just couldn’t take it any more after stalling on a handicapp of 11, and my expensive clubs now remain in the cupboard gathering cobwebs. Tennis is my latest venture and whilst I am struggling with the game itself, it is doing my tourettes syndrome the world of good, especially on my pathetic backhand that is so crushingly bad it resembles a forward defensive in cricket. However, one sport I have never tried since I was about fourteen is rugby, as it has just never gripped me in a way other sports have done. I have mentioned my fear of rugger on blogs before, but I think my avoidance of participating boils down to a few main reasons that I will explain in the next paragraph.

Firstly, some may call me a coward, but I  must confess that I have never really fancied the prospect of having my spine snapped in two whilst sticking my head either up the anus, in to the armpit, or anywhere near the sweating testicles of another male, it feels strangely homo-erotic and unappealing to me. As well as this, I really don’t fancy being on the wrong end of vicious two fingered eye gouging, it is something that fills me with horror, as does the thought of being spear tackled. If you have not seen a spear tackle before, it is a terrifying, barbaric and illegal act that takes place when an opponent hits you in the tackle at a fearsome rate, flipping you upside down before proceeding to plough the playing field with your head. The only consolation is that if  he gets caught, the administer of this act is rightly sent off, however, the obvious downside is that you are heading towards the back of an ambulance on a stretcher with a group of paramedics who are frantically trying tp put your head back on. Call me a cissy, but that is not my idea of fun.

A well executed spear tackle: Imagine if that was your head!!

So, first off yesterday, I arose early to watch the much anticipated Rugby World Cup Semi-Final between the unpredictable French and a young and emerging Welsh side who have lit the tournament up so far. Little did I know that I was about to witness a sporting tragedy that would be talked about for decades to come, such was the injustice of it all. This was right up there with the “Hand of God” moment that wrecked England’s World Cup football dream in 1986. I began watching the game as a neutral, but I was soon transformed in to a temporary Taff as Wales suffered a combination of misfortune and injustice in the first twenty minutes of the game, firstly losing a key player to injury and then having their captain and talisman wrongly sent off for an alleged spear tackle as mentioned above. It was not a spear tackle, even I knew that, but in an inexplicable moment of madness, the referee made a call so bad that it could end his career.

What followed was a perversely enjoyable battle against the odds as the Welsh, a man down, somehow gathered momentum in the face of adversity. God, did they try, it was a herculean effort, but if you were watching, you just knew that this was going to be a heroic failure featuring conversions and penalties agonisingly missing the target and match winning situations being repelled by last ditch French defending as they clung on to a 9-8 lead. Of course, it all ended in Welsh tears that flowed from New Zealand back to the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff that was packed with 60,000 supporters watching on a big screen. Back in the days when I used to watch the England football team, I witnessed dramatic hard luck stories v Argentina (’86, ’98) West Germany (’90) and united Germany (’96) but for the Welsh, this was worse than bad luck, it was a total injustice in a game that they would otherwise have won comfortably. The Welsh will try to console themselves by taking pride in the heroics of their team, but in reality, the actions of one man (the referee) have ruined the World Cup as a spectacle as Wales would have been worthy and exciting finalists. Sadly for them, opportunities at World Cup semi-finals don’t come along every week.

Tadley players at a line out (John is far left)
In the afternoon I went to watch a local derby featuring Tadley and Aldermaston with my old mate John Newton. As soon as we arrived John (far left) was asked to join in for Tadley as there was a lack of players, this left me to observe the game from the sidelines with a pint of Ringwood Best and the warm autumn sunshine as my only companions, but both pleasant companions at that. I used to know all the old rugger bugger types at Aldermaston and Tadley, but that was many years ago, it appears that apart from a couple still managing to somehow get out on the pitch, ?everyone else has either retired or died. Time is racing past us at an alarming rate, although Terry Withey an old family friend did rear his head for an hour or so.
The game itself was pretty much chaotic and hard to follow if I am honest, though considering he hadn’t played for years, John kept with the pace well, regularly ramming his head up the anus or in to the armpits of his loyal team mates with relish and apparent enjoyment that only rugby players can fully understand. Aldermaston ran out eventual winners by five points, but there was an impressive feeling of mutual respect from the players who had spent the last eighty minutes stamping all over each other, I just can’t help but admire that attribute in the participants of this brutal sport. If someone ran their metal studs down my back, I just can’t imagine that half an hour later I would be sharing a pint of bitter with him whilst singing puerile songs about big breasted milk maids. However, I have huge respect for those who can, rugby players are a unique community and just because I perish the thought of playing, it doesn’t stop me admiring those who do.
So that was it, a day involved with a sport that is quite alien to me really, but I have to say this, I quite enjoyed it all in all, especially as John recovered sufficiently to cook me dinner afterwards!

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