A weekend at the Rugby World Cup

Owing to the proximity of the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand last weekend I took the chance to go over to Auckland for the England v Scotland game. I flew over with Tom after work on Friday, a 2 hour 40 min flight packed with Rugby fans. Unfortunately due to NZ being 3 hours ahead of Australia it was past 1am Saturday morning when we landed, and gone 2am when we checked into the hostel. We fancied a beer and were surprised/happy to find most of the pubs in the lively Fort Street area still open, after a cheeky pint we retired for the evening at 3am!

Owing to the time difference, and the usual plastic bag rustling by dorm mates, we slept through until midday NZ time. We emerged into a drizzly Auckland and soon sought out some ‘breakfast’ and stumbled upon the decent Vulcan Café just off Queen St, the city’s main thoroughfare. A full fry up, first one in a while, set us up nicely for the day. Here we met an old BT colleague of mine, Les, who came to the game with us. A Geordie lad, the Kiwi’s thought he was Scottish, who I hadn’t seen him for 4 or 5 years his sense of humor brightened up the grey day 🙂

We went to collect our tickets from the ticket desk at the Sky Tower and watched people base jumping from the observation platform 192m above the ground attached two very thin wires – rather them than me! After checking out the Rugby fan zone at the city wharf, which was packed and wet, we decided the warmth of a pub was much more enticing and watched the Australia v Russia game there. Auckland was full of Rugby fans, lots of grown men in face paint, Scots in kilts, Englishmen dressed up as Knights, and Kiwi’s pretending to be Scots. We hadn’t even got a flag so when a guy came through the pub selling England scarves for $15 we took the opportunity to look much more patriotic!

We took the bus to the Stadium, the impressive Eden Park, which is about 4km out of the city centre. We were pretty early for the game, which gave us time to look around a bit, watch the France v Tonga game on the big screens, and make use of the bar and hotdog stands and hotdog facilities.

It wasn’t long before the ground filled up to its 60’000 capacity and there were English and Scottish flags everywhere – probably a 50:50 split. The stadium capacity has been extended for the World Cup with temporary seating, and we were sat on these in the North East corner, which gave us a decent unrestricted view of the game. Surprisingly, in a country that has its fair share of rain, much of the stadium wasn’t covered, but fortunately we were only subjected to light drizzle and managed to stay pretty dry throughout the game.

With both teams requiring points, Scotland needing an 8 point victory, to qualify for the knock-out stages of the competition there was a nervy atmosphere as England kicked off attacking towards us. It seemed like everyone, bar those born in England, were supporting Scotland – around us were Kiwi’s and American’s claiming Scottish heritage, annoyingly shrieking every time Scotland went forward.

Unfortunately Scotland dominated the first half as England struggled to keep hold of the ball and giving away numerous penalties, which Scotland happily converted. England seemed desperate for points with Jonny Wilkinson kicking for penalties at every opportunity, unfortunately his range was off and many fell short – encouraging much ridicule from the Scottish fans. It wasn’t until the 33rd minute that he finally hit the target and England got their first points. I’m no Rugby expert but I would have thought it would be a better tactic to keep possession and go for a try, especially as the kicking wasn’t working – that said England’s runners rarely threatened either.

Scotland got a drop goal just before half time and the first half ended 9-3 to Scotland and the Scottish fans were getting cocky – “two points to go” was the chant of the Kiwi guys behind us. Time to fetch some more beers to stiffen the nerves and warm us up!

England must have been given a motivational rollicking by coach Martin Johnson as the second half was a much improved performance, finally we started to look threatening. Unfortunately Jonny’s kicking didn’t get any better as he sliced an almost certain drop goal wide of the posts – much to the delight of the Scottish fans. This fired up the Scots and they raced down the other end only to be denied a try by some last ditch England defending. We got pretty worried when England conceded a penalty after an scrum infringement and Scotland went 12-3 up, enough to send them through to the next round at England’s expense.

 

Soon after, relievingly, Wilkinson rectified his earlier mistake and fired over a drop goal to claw England back to 12-6. This seemed to get England going again and he soon kicked a conversion to bring it back to 12-9 with about 15 minutes of the game remaining , now we were feeling confident and a chorus of “Swing low, sweet chariot” went around the stadium.

There were a couple of opportunities for both teams in the final stages as the game finally opened up, and we went berserk when a high pass was thrown wide to Chris Ashton who dived over the line for a try. The resulting kick was converted by Toby Flood and with only minutes of the game remaining the score was 16-12 to England, and only St Georges flags were flying around the stadium.

The final whistle soon came and England had clawed their way into the Quarter finals. Nerves frayed, voice was gone, but elated I have to admit it was very satisfying smiling at the pseudo-Scots on the way out! He who laughs last, laughs longest 😉

We caught the bus back into the city and enjoyed some victory beverages whilst watching the Liverpool v Everton footy game – a rare treat to be able to watch proper football. There we met some proper Scots who whilst sad to be out of the tournament congratulated us on the win and wished us well for the next rounds. Still on Sydney time we stayed in the pub until it closed at 4am!

Unfortunately we had to be out of the hostel by 10am, so feeling a little worse for wear we met up with Les for a coffee and had a little walk around the wharf before heading to the airport for our flight back to Sydney. Luckily for us Monday was a bank holiday in New South Wales and a day of R&R was much appreciated!

It was a great weekend and I thoroughly enjoyed my first taste of live Rugby, if it wasn’t so expensive I’d be back out in Auckland for the quarter finals against the French. Come on England!

I took a few photos, which you can see here.

1 thought on “A weekend at the Rugby World Cup

  1. frostystoo

    Lucky bugger Shep, you’ve now been to some of the biggest sporting tournaments in the world. Football World Cup, The Ashes and now the Rugby World Cup. Did you get any tickets for the Olympics next summer?

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