The Tour began in earnest on Friday night, as the Rugby World Cup finally got underway. I was lucky enough to be invited to a media welcome at Alhambra Rugby Club in Dunedin, where the New Zealand v Tonga match was enjoyed with several pints of local ale.
Then it was matchday on Saturday, and straight into action with Scotland v Romania, meeting up with friend of The Rugby Blog Jon Hobbs (right) and a few of his mates. The Scots were lucky to emerge with a win, and it looked for a while as though Romania would take it – I thought at the time that England and Argentina shouldn’t be too worried about what they saw, but they are probably saying the same thing after watching the match later that night.
For all the huffing and puffing, the England game was really not a spectacle. We knew it was never going to be, and we said that winning was all that counts, but it was still frustrating and largely dull. I’ve watched the game back since (not through dedicated journalism…it happened to be on again in a bar last night), and it didn’t seem quite so bad.
You can’t play without the ball, and England didn’t see it for the majority of the first hour. When they did have it, there was precious little quick ball, but hopefully they’ll hit their stride with matches against Georgia and Romania, and then at least give the Scots a decent game!
After the game, we headed to Otago University Rugby Club, opposite the stadium, where they were very welcoming, despite many ants in pants about England’s black jerseys. We were the last to leave there, before enjoying the late open-air drinking in the Octagon, where even Lord Tindall was picking over the bones of the game with various fans.
After a 5am finish, we set up camp at Pirates RFC on Sunday, where they have built a mini-stadium within their club rooms in South Dunedin, with every match shown on a giant screen. It’s not a bad place to watch a game!
There were plenty of people cheering on the Welsh against the Boks, and there was a collective sense of injustice at the result of that match. Sam Warburton was immense as his side were easily superior, but they couldn’t quite make it count on the scoreboard. On that showing though, I reckon they can beat Australia if they do indeed meet them in the quarters.
As for the tour, we’re now in Queenstown after an amusing drive with 6 of us piled into the small van, and Stu and Justin have now arrived. We’ll spend the week here – although we’re toying with a trip to Invercargill for the midweek Scotland game – and then head back to Dunedin for the weekend.
If you haven’t seen it, here’s last week’s video diary produced for Guinness on 1759.Guinness.com – let me know what you think and look out for the next instalment on Friday.