I watch sport quite frequently on TV. I’ll watch pretty much any sport going and whilst I have my favourites, I don’t mind watching something new just to learn about it (which is why I’ve probably seen more Kabaddi than you have, thank you Eurosport!). I’ve always put this down to the fact my Dad was a PE teacher, and I find myself looking for techniques and tactics to understand a game, rather than just marvelling at individuals.
Thinking back though I realise I watched a lot of sport growing up, just mostly not football. Although I do have vague memories of eating spaghetti bolognaise for the first time before me, my Dad, and my Uncle Bill sat down to watch a game of football that was ultimately cancelled when a wall collapsed in Heysel Stadium…
So I guess I put it down to my Dad having a professional interest and love of sport. My Dad is one of the smartest people I know and could have gone into any other profession but followed what he enjoyed (also smart). But it wasn’t all my Dad, my Mum used to watch cricket and golf whilst she knitted (two sports you can’t watch without dedicating your entire attention to) so as a child growing up sport was just what was on TV.
Rugby definitely felt like more than a ‘just on’ thing though, and when the Five Nations rolled around it was something more than just a way to pass an evening. I can remember David Sole marching the team out for THAT game against England, I watched Lomu flatten Carling with one hand (and cheered loudly!), and because the Scotland rugby team has always been reasonably ok, it’s been a lot more fun to watch them than their football counterparts.
A couple of weeks ago, my mate Stuart said he had spare tickets to a couple of the Autumn Internationals. I jumped at the chance. It was that my first ever experience of a live rugby game and just happened to be at the sold out Scotland vs New Zealand game at Murrayfield. I’ve seen live football twice (Dumbarton vs Queens Park, and Scotland vs a country we should have beaten but didn’t), and live basketball – Glasgow Rocks – a few times but never rugby. And what better way to start out!
Scotland international and domestic rugby has been on the rise for a few years now, but being Scottish there was a general sense of ‘as long as we don’t get gubbed’ because, lest we forget, the All Blacks are and have been for many years, one of the best teams in the world.
Regardless, there was a sense of hushed excitement that built and built until the kick off approached. Wandering to the stadium the good natured banter had already begun, and taking our seats as the players finished their warm-ups I started to get a sense of the stadium. I’d been in Murrayfield before, for gigs, and cycled through it as part of Pedal for Scotland, but seeing it packed full started to ratchet up the excitement.
They killed the lights as spotlights and music and fireworks kicked things up a notch, and then the players were coming out, the anthems were sung and boy, what a sound to hear your national anthem (Flower of Scotland) being belted out by a packed stadium.
A pause as the legend that is Doddie Weir came out to deliver the match ball – a huge gentle giant that is now battling Motor Neurone Disease – and received a standing ovation, and nary a few tears.
And then the first real stadium moment as the All Blacks lined up for their Haka. I’m not sure where in the rules of rugby etiquette this falls but the crowd were so pumped up for this and chanting loudly that it was almost an anticlimax.
It went by in a whirl or dodgy refereeing decisions, scintillating play by both sides, huge tackles and as we entered the last 10 minutes a sense that maybe Scotland could take this?
Our seats were bang in line with the try-line that Scotland were heading for and as the last play of the game started, Hogg darting inside and out then charging up the line. I rose as one with the crowd… Go on Hoggy!! GO ONNN!!!!!
10 more metres and we’d have done it.
But what a game! I’ve since watched it back on TV and it was as frenetic and end-to-end as it looked. I fear I may have been a little spoiled for my first foray into live International rugby!
I’m back next Saturday to see how we fare against the Aussies, hope will bubble after that amazing display against New Zealand but as always, us Scots will always retain the knowledge of so many games that we were close to winning in the past. Aye maybe, but probably naw.
But, aye. Maybe.
COME ON SCOTLAND!!!
Also published on Medium.