One of the things I had looked forward to doing while in Napier was to see my very first Rugby game, and one that featured Canada to boot. I avoided buying a ticket before getting to Napier, just in case I didn’t make it in time to see a game. It turned out I was in town 7 days before the game against Japan, so I had lots of time to get everything in order. One problem – the game sold out 2 days before I got to Napier!
So I tried my best to find a ticket before the game – I scoured the internet for tickets, I went back to the ticket agent in Napier daily, just in case more tickets became available, and I asked around at the hostel and posted a notice on their board. All to no avail. No tickets were forthcoming.
After looking for 7 days, it was 3 hours before kickoff and I was still without a ticket. So now it was to the old fashioned way – standing outside the stadium and hope to find someone with an extra ticket. Since I disliked the idea of constantly yelling to find a ticket, I created a simple billboard using the cardboard of one of my granola bar boxes. I just wish I took a picture of the thing, it was a work of art. This is a close recreation.
With my sign in hand, I wandered over to the stadium. I got there 90 minutes before game time, so people were just starting to file in at a decent rate. At first I just stood around holding my sign at one of the 4 gates, but got bored and tired of hearing another guy nearby yelling about buying a ticket as well. A police officer, one of the many around, came by at that time and kindly suggested I wander around, especially to the other end – it’s where tickets were picked up. So, I started walking with my sign. Shortly after I had walked the ticket office I heard someone exclaim ‘here we go!’. 2 older ladies and a husband approached me. Turns out the second husband had gotten called into work, so they had a 4th ticket! I asked how much for their ticket (not wanting to pay CRAZY prices), and they offered it to me for $40NZD. For reference, the cheapest tickets were $32 ($40 after service charges), the most expensive, $72. This was for a $72 ticket. I happily and quickly said yes and forked over the money. SUCCESS!
I was in.
Since we were still over an hour early, my new kiwi friends and I took to the usual tradition of sports – drinking. $7.50 per can, but my hosts gave me 2 beers before I could even think about what I wanted. Very kind folks, these 3 (I got a round later on).
Anyways, we were there to see everyone warming up on the field. The view from our seats were pretty good. Gorgeous afternoon for the game (kickoff was 5pm…on a Tuesday?)
Canada wore white for warming up, then switched to black for the game.
I was NOT expecting the kind of crowd that I saw here in Napier – TONS of flags, both Canada and Japan, facepainting, chestpainting, hats, shirts, colours, beards. For a game between two teams that have no playoff aspirations, the turnout and support (many of these are kiwis getting dressed up) was phenomenal.
After the national anthems – and Canada’s had a pretty good singing from the crowd (felt like home!), the game kicked off.
What is called a ‘scrum’. Pretty much 800kg+ of guys (per side) ramming into each other.
Canada scored a try (similar to a touchdown) first, but Japan responded quickly and ran the ball all over the field well in the first half (40 minutes). At half time, the score was 17-7 for Japan. Canada came out quickly in the second half, getting a try within the first 5 minutes, though they failed to convert the extra two points. A try is worth 5, the conversion afterwards (kick through the uprights) worth 2. The difference with the conversion compared to American football – you have to kick from the spot that the try was scored, moved as far back as the kicker chooses. So if you scored a try right along the sidelines, the kick will be at a difficult angle and quite easy to miss. If you scored a try in the middle of the field, it’s pretty much a given 2 points. Anyways, on with the pictures. Here is one of ‘The Beard’ taking a line in (tossing the ball from the sideline).
Canada mounted a strong comeback in the last minutes of the second half and tied the match up with 1 minute remaining, at a score of 23-23. That was how the match ended, in a draw.
Watching Rugby live was a lot of fun. The actual action on the field is better on a TV, as my kiwi friends mentioned before the game started. It’s just easier to follow. But the atmosphere of a rugby crowd is pretty special. Have such fantastic support for two teams with no realistic chance of even making the playoffs, most from local New Zealanders who love their rugby, was a great thing to be a part of. I’ve also grown to enjoy watching Rugby in general – it’s fast moving, hard hitting and challenging game. I’ve certainly got the general understanding of the game down pat, it’s just the various penalties I’m still not 100% on. Very fun spectator sport, and this is the country to learn rugby in – Kiwis just LOVE the sport to death.