Untold egg-chasing: my first ever rugby union match

Northampton vs London Irish by Blacksheep

On Friday night I was invited to go to watch the Northampton Saints rugby union side play London Irish at Franklin’s Gardens. Now I suspect some of you don’t like rugby, or like me have never been to a game, whilst others (those further afield perhaps) might have no clue what it is at all. So I thought I’d write up my experience.

Northampton are the Premiership Rugby champions so this was rugby at the high end, a bit like going to the Emirates in fact. Also my invite was to a private box, on the halfway line, quite the BEST seats in the house!

We arrived at about 7.15 a half hour before kick off and we just walked in and told the security chap we were guests of Mr. X (no names, no pack drill) and he ushered upstairs. We walked past the directors’ box and along the corridor to find our box. No one checked our names or asked us for ID, we just breezed in.

Once our host arrived he invited us to help ourselves to wine or beer (in bottles or jugs of lager, Guinness or ale) and we chatted for bit before heading out on to the seats to watch the teams come out.

The supporters were mixed in together, home and away, and it was all very friendly. I noticed several things that were different about rugby and rugby crowds but that was the first. The demographic was different from the Arsenal; these people were generally barbour jacketed, flat capped, and lots of tweed. Nice though and they clapped both sides (when it was called for).

When either side had a kick on goal the screens put a sign saying “Shhhh someone is kicking” and everyone (I mean everyone) was quiet. There was some singing, to familiar tunes (Oh when the Saints…) but generally it was pretty sedate. It might be because it wasn’t (in the opinion of my guides) a very good game. This was Saints’ B team as most of their starts are involved in the internationals (Six Nations).

That’s odd too – I can’t imagine the World Cup taking place at the same time as the PL was running – after all we would have Arteta playing on his own! It’s also hard to get used to the way rugby is refereed. The refs are strict and the players show no dissent, not even gestures tonight. But medics and physios (and even water carriers) seem to come on to the field of play at will. At one point a player was receiving treatment from three medics and the game was going on all around him!

There’s no time wasting because the stadium clock simply counts down. It stops for stops in play and then starts again. At the end of each half when it gets to zero play continues so long as the play is on the pitch and in play. So the moment it goes out (or there is a score) the match ends. No injury time, no need for the ref to adjust anything, it just stops.

I saw a couple of tries, a conversion and some penalties and it was quite close with Northampton winning 15-9 but London Irish making life very difficult for them. The stands emptied very quickly at the end but apparently many people head for the bars. We stayed for drinks in the box and chatted to our host.

Its not football but I enjoyed it and I’ve a much better understanding of the game than I did before.


Coming very soon: The 5000th edition of Untold Arsenal

Anniversary of the day:

  • 14 February 2005: Arsenal 5 Crystal Palace 1, this was supposedly the first Premier League match with no Englishmen in the starting XI for Arsenal.  Although a celebration of overturning outmoded nationalism the press treated it as a scandal.

And the books




19 Replies to “Untold egg-chasing: my first ever rugby union match”

  1. Very interesting Blacksheep. I’ve been to lots of dances at the Saints ground (they have a big club room under the stand) but not rugby. For that I went twice to Leicester, Northampton’s biggest rivals.

    What struck me before the game was that players warmed up by putting their head against the post and pushing.

    What struck me in the game was that when the PA system appealed for quiet for kicking, they got it, except when an Argentinian took the kick and he was roundly booed. Those not booing chuckled at the booing.

    No mention of that in the press report the next day, or ever. Rugby fans are always beyond reproach. It is in the BBC constitution,

    After all the first BBC radio commentary on radio was done by a rugby man.

  2. In the little town I live in we have a rugby team. Not just a rugby team. No a woman rugby team. But this is all at a very low level. I guess the lowest level from England would win a match against my local team without having to sweat.
    As they play their matches on the local community field where there is also a small athletic around the field it sometimes is strange. The track is free for use and when I get there and there is a game on it is surreal.
    The players on the pitch bumping in to each other, the spectators standing on the touch line (only a handful) and me running behind them on the track.
    What struck me on one occasion was that I was standing still after a sprint and the visiting team played a forward pass (not allowed as far as I know with the hands), I was standing on the line so I had excellent vision that the ball went clearly forward. One home player appealed for a split second but then just carried on. The visitors could score from the attack, the ref missed it and nobody did mind it.
    But of course this is low level rugby played by housewives, young girls and as I sometimes run on the track when they are training I notice they work hard but most of all just try to have fun

  3. Didn’t someone once say that rugby was a game for hooligans played by gentlemen and football a game for gentlemen, played by hooligans.
    Watching players being lifted high by colleagues, during rugby throw-ins, I would like to see the same procedure allowed in football when (say) corners are taken. Imagine the exciting mayhem in the penalty area. 😉

  4. Rugby’s Ok, although I find it difficult to understand what’s going on for much of the game as there’s
    so many rules. I tend to see it as really big blokes going full on at each other. Yet to watch a women’s game, but live in hope.

  5. Along with being a lifelong Arsenal fan, I played rugby for many years, and it remains my sport of choice.

    Despite Tony sniping about the perceived ethos surrounding rugby (surely not basing a critique on one example!?!), it remains a much pleasanter game than football. The friendship between rival supporters is manifest, as is the camaraderie amongst the players after the final whistle. Because of the strict refereeing, player behaviour is usually exemplary. The sanction of marching players back ten yards if they misbehave following the giving of a penalty against them, generally ensures that decisions are accepted.

    A rugby clubhouse is somewhere people gather socially, both around a match and at other times; to have a drink or a meal, or just meet up. At most clubs, teams are structured from young children (who play modified versions depending on age, and who are taught and supported, not threatened by insane parents!) up to adults of all abilities and ages – I once played in the front row of the scrum against a seventy-six year-old, who sauntered from scrum to scrum, did little else, but was still teak-hard to play against.

    One of the foremost reasons I started supporting Arsenal hundreds of years ago, was that it was the football club that resonated the values I loved in rugby most above others – and I continue to feel like that about the club.

  6. Is this odd, but I find it amazing that supporters of Association Football living in a Rugby country like England (you’re excused Walter, although i noticed that the highest score ever in a Rugby match was recorded last week in Belguim, Royal Kituro scored 356 points) would have such a vague knowledge of another code of football?
    Rugby Union has such a huge amount we could learn from in Soccerball:

    Video technology(TMO)
    Refs miked up to the broadcast (imagine Dean explain to the viewers why he does what he does)
    Ref cam ( see what the red sees)
    Respect for the officials
    Leaving the battle on the pitch (usually)
    Discipline on and off the field (usually)

    I played soccer all my life but would be glued to the TV or in the ground whenever the 6 nations, World Cup, European Cup or Pro 12 is on.
    So would most soccer fans I know of.
    Then of course there’s GAA as well here in Ireland.

    Maybe it’s an Irish thing, don’t know, but itv would be hard to find somebody here interested in one code and not all three.

    Each to his/her own I suppose.
    Anyhow, hopefully Middlesboro and France will be dispatched this weekend.
    Allez les…….. ooops!

  7. Good stuff Blacksheep. As someone who has regularly attended internationals I would recommend the experience. Coming from a football background I was amazed to find ourselves mixing and enjoying the banter with the opposition fans in the pavillion before and after the game. I do have to say though that at England internationals in recent years there is an extra edge. The supporters are not as friendly as the other
    home nations. I have also seen the English fans boo during place kicks where the other home nations abstain. I think its down to the ‘win at all cost’ attitude that exists in English society

  8. I would also encourage anyone who enjoys a good workout and a bit of fun to try mixed tag or touch rugby. Played by men, women and children simultaneously, when you have the ball and are touched the game stops and you concede possession. Good, clean healthy fun

  9. Seems strange to be talking rugby here but hey you started it.
    Something that caught my notice last November was when England played the mighty All Blacks at Twickenham.
    The All Blacks were performing their world famous Hakka before the match, they do this before every international and it’s a piece of theatre that’s loved by fans across the globe.
    To my amazement, the English fans sang their rugby anthem Sweet Chariot all through, showing huge disrespect for New Zealand.
    It was a bit like chanting all through Abide with me at a cup final.
    I’ve watched the All Blacks in countries all over the world and have never seen such poor manners.
    Hope it’s not a trend creeping into English fans who will hopefully have a very enjoyable visit to Dublin in a couple of weeks but go home with nothing but memories 🙂

  10. Thanks Dec I think you are right about us being able to learn a lot from rugby. One other i remembered from last night was my host telling me that the saints players are some of the best paid in England but still they only earn in a year what PL players can take home in a week. In France its different because of the lack of a salary cap but I liked the principle that clubs have to operate within a budget that doesn’t allow the league to be dominated by a couple of rich foreign )or indeed British) owners.

  11. Absolutely, the other thing they have that could be useful in roundyball is the 10 minute sinbin option. Looks to me that without the monolith that is FIFA, rugby is much more progressive in general and is booming even in non traditional markets like USA.

  12. Dec. If you gave the refs the option of a sin bin you are giving them more poeer and influence. We would be the ones suffering most

  13. Hmmmmmm, I genuinely wouldn’t think so.
    As a tool it’s a benefit to the sport in my view.
    That it might be abused is another day’s work.
    Especially if the ref comms were broadcast as they are in top level rugby union. There’s less room for the ambiguity that our refs use to cover their actions. They’re never held to any account.
    There are sometimes still bad decisions in rugby, but for some reason they seem easier to take because refs are generally seen as a valuable part of the game and not a necessary evil as they appear to be in soccer.

  14. Well that is a different story entirely if the sinbin is used in assosiation with com devices. However as it presently stands it would be a disaster.

  15. Interesting, Blacksheep. What I like about rugby is the discipline of the players, the ref seems to wield total control over those giants. The use of a countdown clock and technology also means there’s little room for cheating. And a player can be cited after a match, have the case reviewed and punished appropriately, no nonsense about the ref having or not having seen the incident. And the players seem to be very smart too, unlike the footballers who spit everywhere. Football can learn a lot from rugby.

  16. Thanks Blacksheep.

    In spite of my comments on those poor Old Blackheathen’s I don’t mind Rugby.

    Being a citygrubber who played a third sport and not football I did learn something in the two games of rugby I played in as a fourteen year old: How to tackle whilst not breaking my neck or the opponents leg. And this simple technique when applied to football allowed me to adapt and play with much better players, as a defender, without starying fights every five minutes (which is the usual reaction when you hack someone from behind, though some choose to believe that such actions are a part of Football).

    Being able to run quick and tackle allowed me to imagine myself as some kind of latter day Des Walker or proto-embryonic Koscielny (please don’t laugh!) 🙂

    When reflecting on what Rugby taught me about tackling I didn’t find it hard to understand why Adams, Bould, Campbell etc. never seriously injured an opponent (as far as I know) or took them out for too long.

  17. But why do some Rugby teams still call themselves ‘Football’ clubs.

    The split occured a fair while ago now, and I’m fairly sure that they don’t play with a spherical ball but an oblong eggy type thing.

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