March 26, 2012

English rugby, an activity to discover

Thomas Kieller

Photo – Copyright Harlequins Rugby Club

David Strettle of the Harlequins weaves his way.

Everybody knows the successes of the English football clubs and the overexcited atmosphere during their matches. Nevertheless, there is not only football which describes England on the sports level. One must add other activities such as the rough and tough rugby.

Travelling in this country in September 2009, I did not hesitate a moment to cover a rugby match in order to observe the feeling of the crowd in the stadium and to see the rituals associated to this sport where the big tackles are quite frequent between players. Being in London, I chose to go see a local team called the Harlequins. On that day, the Quins were clashing with the Watford Saracens, a team from the neighbourhood of London.

When I arrived near the Stoop which is the Quins’ stadium, I noticed that there were a lot of regulars in the crowd. Therefore, the experience was going to be entrancing. Do not think that the atmosphere of a rugby match is the same as a football match. No way! Among the spectators, one can distinguish ex-players with imposing stature and numerous passionate fans. Without hesitating, one can affirm that their sport is totally rugby.

In the open stadium, the mood of the crowd is colorful and friendly. The supporters of the local team are wearing proudly the square-patterned jersey of the Harlequins: pale blue, red, brown, greyish and green. Yes, these colors can remind you the feats of an Italian character of the commedia dell'arte. However, I can tell you that the rugby players are playing hard on the field. No holding back! You will not find Arlecchino on the green grass of a rugby match...

In front of the 9,209 spectators, the players of both sides launched offenses by hand and by foot. Besides, the series of punts provoked intense actions. The reception of the kicks and the counter-attacks which followed were spectacular. One must not forget the hard-hitting tackles between the players. The forwards with their big stature confronted themselves non-stop on the field during scrums and mauls. The game is quite tight during these actions. The Guinness Premiership offers quality rugby.

Of course, the crowd likes the development of the game with passes and especially with great runs. With agility and staggering speed, the backs make dazzling runs. The supporters are bewitched of these types of action.

In the stands, the life and the movements of the fans follow the charm and the culture of England. A vast range of local products are offered for the spectator such as the classic steak pie which is a small pie made with a type of meat, the baked potato stuffed with beans and cheese, the cheeseburger with smoke bacon and a good slice of cheddar. You can also go for a breakfast baguette with English bacon. I must not forget to point out that many Guinness stands offer the famous black beer with an evocative slogan: “Bring it to life!”

Everything has been put in place in order to enjoy a Saturday afternoon while watching some good rugby. One must just follow the ball and the entertainment follows. For the ones who want to know the results of the match, the Saracens took slowly the advantage. The final result turned in their favor: Saracens 22, Harlequins 9. At the end, the players of the two teams shook hands and afterwards they jogged along the lines while waving at the crowd. The match ended like it started, meaning with respect and with the spirit of surpassing oneself.

A person told me that the Harlequins players with their square-patterned jerseys are the “Pride of London”. This slogan and this pride could be felt in the stands and in the streets around the stadium. The fans of the Quins know how to spread this spirit. A rugby match is an activity where it is good to live in. It is also a sport which is practiced with intensity and integrity.