Crouch! Touch! Pause! ENGAGE!
Whoop! So the day finally arrived! The France v. Ireland Toirnee de 6 Nations rematch. The weather started out nice, but of course being the day that it was quickly turned into a sort of clammy rain that ended up with my joints protesting as we walked out of the stadium. It was a smart thing to bring the big jackets and scarves and gloves; articles of clothing that I thought I wouldn’t have needed with the impending spring.
But I digress.
The Irish men looked dapper in their Emerald green jerseys and the French men looked sharp in their dark blue jerseys. We were in the nosebleed section and even though we left the house at 2:30 for a 4pm kick off time, we barely got there with 5 minutes to spare.
The game got off to a bit of a slow start, with both teams testing the waters with each other, trying to find strengths and weaknesses. However, to me it seemed that the Irish were pumping their heart and soul into the first half, ready with the throw ins and scrums, and the French were more content to let the Irish do the work. Phillipe calls the French national team a diesel car, in that it takes a long time to get up and running.
So it didn’t come as a surprise then that after a disastrous missed penalty kick, the Irish intercepted a French pass and ran the 30 meters unhindered for the first try of the game, pushing the Irish up to 10-3. Not long after the first try, came the second one, as once again the Irish were able to break through the French defenses, and ended the half time leading a with a strong 17-6 point difference. The French looked a little perplexed as they were only able to get points at penalty kicks.
But this is something to note: while I have not been to a plethora of sporting events in my life time, I was simply amazed at how respectful and quiet the entire stadium was, both for the penalty kicks of what ever team, and generally when the ball was in play. But you’ve never seen such a crowd as that before! Easily 60,000 spectators, and it boasts that when full it can carry up to 80,000 spectators. Of course the overwhelming majority were French and/or French supporters, but there were Irish fans to be seen, as well as plenty of women and even small children. The atmosphere is definitely family friendly and there are no drunkards allowed or drinking on the premises, although smoking is permitted. Open stadium and all that.
Back to the game however. There was no jeering or booing at the Irish team when taking a penalty kick, although if the referee didn’t make a call that the spectators were happy with, the ensuring boos of disapproval were deafening. I’m talking vuvuzela levels of loud and annoying and whistling that leaves your ears ringing for the better part of a minute.
After halftime it seemed that the French team was more ready to get their head in the game and sure enough they were quick to tie up the game that would stall at 17-17. A missed conversion after the second try lost the victory for the French.
A total of three trys for the course of the game and by the end the Irish were exhausted so even in the short over time, there would have been a fourth French try but the referee called the game before they could and it ended in a line out. The game had switched towards an Irish defense that the French were slow to get around and so, in what I see as a fitting, albeit little uninteresting finish, a tie. No one leaves happy, but no one leaves sad.
All in all, even with the rain and windchill making it more unpleasant that it otherwise could have been, the energy and good mood of the spectators as well as what arguably is one of the most difficult sports around, I would say it was a pleasant experience. And I would recommend that if given the opportunity to go watch a live rugby game because these are the sorts of things that are always infinitely more pleasant viewed live.