Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New Favorite Game: Rugby

I went to my first rugby game two weeks ago and I can now say I am convinced rugby is a great game.  I'm told there are people out there that try to make a strong case that American football is a tougher sport than rugby...they would be wrong.

While the Soccer World Cup was popular here, it is really a country of rugby fans.  I haven't quite nailed down all of the rules of the game but I understand enough to appreciate a good sport.  It combines the entertainment of American football, testosterone of hockey fights, and the padding of soccer players.  How can you go wrong? 

We boarded a train in downtown Auckland to head to the stadium with the rest of the fans on Saturday evening.  A 30-minute train ride proved to be nearly as entertaining as the game.  Half of the train car sang the New Zealand national anthem and the other half started up with the South African anthem immediately afterwards.  (We were going to the first game of the tri-nations tournament between New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.)  One Springboks fan carried a vuvuzela and did his part to increase the level of noise and chanting.  By the end of the ride, the entire car was singing a New Zealand pub song - a song that is so thrashed at bars, more than one visitor has mistaken it for the national song.

We got off the train and followed the masses to the Eden Park Stadium.  The Haka was amazing and was finished off by spurts of fire that erupted just in front of us - a nice warm up for the cold evening.  Based on the bantering and commentary before the game we assumed it would be a close game and a fun one to watch live.  It was a fun one to watch but it was definitely not close.  The final score was 32-12, All Blacks.  It was a great way to start off the tournament.

Editor's Note: For those that aren't familiar with the Haka, it is part of the Maori culture.  Performed before every All Blacks game, the most common All Blacks Haka (which is actually any type of Maori dance) is called "Ka Mate, Ka Mate".  The wide eyes and tongues sticking out are to show their passion and scare their opponents before battle.  The entire audience goes crazy after it concludes.  Even when the All Blacks play in other stadiums the crowd loves to watch the Haka.  Although I took a video at the game, it's not very clear and the players are far away so instead check out this video from the All Blacks website: 

Things to be thankful for:
- Great flatmates (my flatmates, plus one neighbor, are in the first picture above)
- The thrill of a sporting event and the atmosphere that goes with it
- Another activity crossed off my list of things to do

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