Thanks for having me, Brighton

The first weekend is done and dusted. For me, two of my 17 games have come and passed and, boy, have they whetted my appetite for what is to come!

After Saturday’s outstanding matches, Sunday had a lot to live up to.

Saturday started at 11am and finished some time just before 1am in the early hours of Sunday. I wasn’t stumbling around the streets, unlike many, but I’d been steadily consuming all day and a lovely whisky in the Hotel du Vin topped the day/night nicely.

Awake nice and early Sunday morning (keen to get my Saturday blog done!) seemed like a grand idea and I was really excited for the game today – Samoa v USA.

On the downside, I was driving today as we had to get home quickly after the match. On the upside, I was driving today so the temptation to repeat yesterday was removed for me!

After a light breakfast we headed to the stadium. The match kicked off at midday and I think my wife was wondering why we were heading there around 10am. She needn’t have worried as the car park was already filling up and there were lots of expectant fans of both sides, and neutrals, milling around.image2

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We stood and took in some of the atmosphere, listening to the band. There was still a buzz around the place from last night but I did hear a couple of people asking if the World Cup had peaked! It was only Game 6 of the 48 – give it a chance!image1

Our seats were a little better for this game, just by the 22. Added to the gorgeous weather, we were all ready for a cracker. These two teams were much more evenly matched than yesterday and look what the produced!image6

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The game itself was a very good game but it didn’t meet the expectations of many. I guess these “new rugby fans” think every game has a last minute try for a famous win!

On the pitch, Samoa scored two good tries and the US scored one brilliant one, from inside their own 22. A great counter-attacking move, really started and finished by Chris Wyles.image17

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Off the pitch, there were some good and bad. Later in the day, the New Zealanders were unhappy with the booing of McCaw (I’ll get to that) and in the past have moaned about people not respecting the Haka. Here, the Samoan Siva Tau was brilliantly respected and you could hear a pin drop around the stadium. On the flip side, the “Wave” kept making an appearance. It had yesterday, too, but in a more exciting game it was quickly usurped by the on-field action. Today, in quieter circumstances, the “Wave” reared its ugly head, and on more than one occasion was ongoing whilst a kicker lined up. You NZers can moan all you like about Twickenham, but it is generally quiet when a kick is being taken, never mind a bloody “Wave”.

I should state that the “Wave” is a bug bear of mine. I don’t care if I paid £10 or £1,000 to see a match – the point is I’ve paid to see a match. There are 30 World class sportsmen on the pitch, I don’t want to see the back of the head in front of me as he gleefully yells “yeeeeeeeh”, lifts his arms in the air and eagerly watches the stands to see if it comes around again. I want to watch the sport. If you want to do it, do it at half time when I’m having a pie and relieving my bladder. Incidentally, my wife, who isn’t even a massive sports fan, hates that crap, too! <Rant over>

Enough of that. The game was good, my wife was a bit disappointed that the US lost but was glad they’d kept it close, and we were back in the car in no time! Unlike the enormous queues for the train to Brighton last night, the car park was a breeze!

I missed the first half of the Uruguay match as I was in the middle of the Sussex/Kent countryside and my radio was not playing nicely. When I did get a signal it was half time! Typical. In the second half, having picked up the hound from my parent’s, I got a signal and listened as Uruguay fell further behind. It wasn’t much of a surprise, but potentially important from an England viewpoint.

We arrived home just after NZ v Argentina started, but I’d wisely set it to record fearing I wouldn’t quite be home in time. Avoiding social media, I sat through a thoroughly entertaining match that looked, for a good while, like it might throw up another surprise. When McCaw was sent to the bin (and booed) it looked like it might be one of those days. His face was a picture.

Now, McCaw is one of those players. We all know the type. Against you, you hate him, you hate all he does, he’s a menace, he’s a nuisance, he’s in the ref’s ear and he’s all over every breakdown like a rash. But there’s not one team in this World Cup that wouldn’t love him in their team. I wouldn’t have booed McCaw had I been there. That’s not my thing. I’d have laughed though, just like I did that time I saw Ponting get a golden duck. It’s not that I don’t have massive respect for them, but as an Englishman everyone loves to see us screw up. And we do. Often. It’s nice, just once in a while, to laugh back.

Of course, the reaction here hasn’t been missed by the media back in New Zealand, as you can see here. It’s almost like they’re building a “the world’s against us, lads” campaign. Much like England did in 2003, in fact…!

The booing at the end was unnecessary and it made me think: would that have happened at a match at Bath or Northampton or Leicester? Probably never. Would it have happened at Twickenham? Highly unlikely, because even there the comedy idiots are drowned out. So why did it happen here? I hoped for an Argentina win but ultimately, unless England are playing, I just want to see a good, fair match.

On the subject of fair matches, a massive thumbs up to Wayne Barnes. He got the big decisions spot on, used the TMO sporadically, but effectively and allowed the game to flow. If we see more of this, rather than what we saw on Friday night, we’re in for some special matches.barnes

After the storm, the calm, but we’re back on Wednesday when I’ll be heading to the Olympic Park for Romania v France.

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