It was a wonderful sight, watching the green army stream along all routes leading to Wembley where they helped set a new record of 89,267 in attendance at a Rugby World Cup game and did a lot for the tournament coffers also given the cheapest seats were £50. There was the usual collection of green wigs and leprechauns, face paint, flags and a great variety of jerseys, hats and other accessories, all adding to the colour and the carnival type atmosphere on a glorious sunny afternoon in London. Pockets of yellow could be picked out around the stadium showing Romanian supporters had travelled also but they were greatly outnumbered.
I had entered the lottery last year for tickets, selecting the cheapest available as I had hoped to get to 2 games but was only successful with my application for the Romania game. We arrived early but the fanzone was closed when we wandered by it. We did manage to secure flags before opting to take the stairs to the top tier where our seats were 5 rows from the front but as you can see from the photo while we could see all the pitch it was hard to make out the numbers on shirts or sometimes to distinguish the players. For example I could see that our lineout was great but could not see who was the main target. The big screen was at the opposite end but half of it was used for the clock and scoreboard and the sun was also making part of it hard to see. In the photo below on the big screen you may be able to make out Reggie Corrigan being interviewed pre-match.
I enjoyed Simon Zebo’s almost try (credit to Earls and Strauss for their contribution in the build-up) and share in the frustration of many that it was awarded before – like other tries in this competition – being rescinded. It would have been the try of the game if it had stood. Of course we don’t want to see scores awarded which are not valid but it would make more sense not to award the score until after the TMO confirms it. Anyway from my view of the distant big screen I thought his foot was in the air when he re-gathered his chip but it was not to be. Zebo did have a big hand in other scores of the day, being credited with three assists in total. His long pass to Earls for Ireland’s 2nd try and generous offload to Rob Kearney for the 5th were notable and he must have been a strong contender for man of the match also. Kearney unfortunately picked up an injury in the process of scoring but hopefully it is not too serious. When you see how the Welsh have had so many injuries and read that former Munster centre Jean de Villiers is retiring from international rugby after fracturing his jaw (after all his efforts to be fit to lead out South Africa after a pretty horrific injury last season) Ireland haven’t done too badly, Tommy O’Donnell being the notable injury-enforced absentee.
I was delighted for Keith Earls and not just because he was probably the best performer of my fantasy rugby team which I had not realised I needed to update mid-week!. His 2nd try of the game elevated him to the same RWC try scoring record as the incomparable Brian O’Driscoll (7 tries) and is a great reward for him after his long absence from international honours due to injury. Of course he credited Zebo and Reddan for their contributions in his post match interview. When he was running towards us for his 2nd try I noticed him calling for the grubber kick and when expertly threaded through by Eoin Reddan he backed himself to make it a certainty. In case you missed it last week there was some excellent analysis in the42.ie about how effective Keith had been in the rucks during the previous game against Canada, showing his great workrate.
Tommy Bowe also scored a brace and I thought he finished the first one particularly well in a very tight space. His second try, Ireland’s 4th, secured the bonus point and should be a great confidence boost after not hitting his usual heights in the warm-up game against England. The other try in the 2nd half came from a rolling maul touched down by Chris Henry, another player who has had his health problems so great to see him back in the green jersey.
Romania deserve credit for fighting so hard to the end despite only having 4 days to recover after a physical encounter with France the previous Wednesday. While the Irish management and players may be annoyed about conceding a late try it was a good reward for the Romanian’s efforts as was their refusal to let Ireland breach their defences again in the final minutes. Congratulations also to their scrum half Romania scrum-half Florin Surugiu who proposed to his girlfriend Alexandria on the pitch after the game.
I asked on my Facebook page if others feel like I do about the Mexican wave. It took a while to get going in the second half and when it did there was a 5m lineout taking place down near me which I really wanted to see as a steal then could have led to a score.
The young fellow beside me loved it and the noise was amazing but it seems disrespectful to what is happening on the pitch. By all means do it during the ad breaks before kick-off or halftime. I guess that would eat into valuable drinking time. Which gets me onto my other pet hate. Just 19 minutes on the clock and the row in front of me had to rise up in a mini wave to let some people out to the bar. The same people were out again at half time, returning late. During the game I also noticed that there was not the expected silence for penalties and conversions either. It was noticeably different to my west terrace experience where I am close to the action and the people around me generally stay for the duration and there tends to be silence for goal kicks.
Good luck to Ireland in the crucial matches coming up which I shall be watching on TV. I expect the atmosphere will be amazing in the Millennium stadium at the French game in particular as it is the key to avoiding the All Blacks in the quarter-final. With the roof closed it should be as good as the Munster v Toulouse game in 2008. The Wembley atmosphere never reached those heights for me, maybe it was different in other sections of the ground? “Ole, Ole” broke out once and there were a few attempts at the “Fields of Athenry” but it never became the acoustic Mexican wave I have often written about from other games. Maybe the sound was a lot more impressive on the lower levels. I guess I need to learn my lesson and upgrade to better seats in future. If you were there how did it rank for you in terms of atmosphere? I doubt anything will ever surpass Munster v All Blacks 2008 for me.
There was plenty of good humour queuing to get into the underground station. I particularly enjoyed the random lineouts as lads were thrown up into the air which kept us entertained, the topless guy got a great cheer 🙂
The match stats are not in the usual format – for example I can’t see who had the most lineout takes. More tabs of data but less overall info or else I am blind. Here is the link anyway.
Merci Jacques! – my former (French) boss gave me a very unusual gift when I moved into a different department recently. According to the company website: the design is inspired by a photo of the 1895 jersey
Difficult beginnings for the Irish who had to wait 5 years after their first match to score a point, but we are in 1880! Unimaginable looking at their history since. They won their first test against Scotland in 1881 and in 1884 came to Cardiff two men short to play Wales and had to borrow two Welsh players.