Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thing 217 Provincial Test Match

The history of Munster Rugby is part of what makes it the greatest rugby team on earth. Ever. If they made a rugby team out of the X-Men, Superman, SpiderMan, Iron Man and Patrick Stewart it still wouldn't be as awesome as Munster Rugby is. It's a local team, with a massive following of smart rugby fans who know the game. Passionate fans who scream their team through victories and losses. These same fans, out of respect for kickers on both teams, also go completely silent for kicks. Twenty five thousand silent people. The pressure gets to most visiting kickers and in that, the fans do their bit to help the team.

In the modern day, this is a modern professional team, two time Heineken Cup champions. They players though, they're taught to remember their history, and every player who played before them. The younger ones look up to the older, and the traditions are passed on. That history though... wow.

This is the provincial team that plays against international touring sides, and long before the game turned professional in Ireland, this is the team that beat the All-Blacks in a game of rugby that close to one quarter of a million people claim to have been at. Seriously. I know people who hadn't even been born in 1978 who are claiming to have been at that match. It's sparked books and plays. It's the kind of thing that people from Limerick love. I'd know. I'm from Limerick. I love it.

There are replays of that 1978 match still on the telly. It's nice to kick back and watch them every so often. Ireland's never beaten the All-Blacks by the way. Munster have. I'm not smug. No wait, I am. Very smug.
In 2008 the All-Blacks came back on the scene for the 30th Anniversary of the famous victory. I'd have sold my soul (what little soul I have) for the chance to see that match. Instead I watched it in a house with two people who don't really give that much of a crap. "Which team are we again?" You've got to be kidding... So I did the usual, screamed at the telly. Told the referee what he was doing wrong. Applauded when I thought it was deserving, cursed at the All Blacks when they did things right. All from the comfort of a couch. How I would have loved to have been jammed into the terraces. Packed in with the rest of the mob. Damn comfortable couch...

I wasn't at the match in 1978. Still wouldn't be born for another six years. I'm honest enough to admit it. There are some people who still claim to have been there. Six years people.

So last night it was Munster v Australia.

There's no Australian Internationals alive who've seen weather like this. Biblical proportions. Limerick hasn't seen this much rain since the set of Angela's Ashes. Then there was the wind; it didn't blow in one direction, it blew in all directions. And it blew strong. The goalposts looked like they were going to come down on the terraces behind them.

It wasn't Australia's first choice team, but it wasn't our starting XV either. Our internationals are away with the Irish team so there were quite a few rookies. What happened after the starting whistle was a lesson in tough-rugby for the tourists. Munster played into the wind in the first half, hid the ball, hit hard in the tackles. Worked hard at the breakdown. Punched hard when the fights started. One in, all in. Lots of bitterness. That's how I like to see it played.

In the second half the wind howled in Munster's favour. And Paul Warwick used it. Pinged the Ozzies into the corner. Hassled them. Bullied them. Hit their line hard. Worked the ball. Australia turned the ball over, kicked it clear. We kicked it back. Into the corner again. And start hassling them all over again. The scoreline with five minutes to go was fifteen points to six in favour of Munster. It flattered the Ozzies; it could have been twenty points.

But I don't care about the scoreline. I just care that we won. It's never going to enter the history books in the way the All-Blacks game did. But it's a win against an International team. And I was there.

I was there!

1 comment:

  1. One minor issue i have with munster fans is that while testament to their love of the team, they wear munster shirts everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Even to Ireland matches. Now thats not exactly a cardinal sin, lots of people dont wear green to support the boys in green. Red and green dont go together very well, but that doesnt annoy me either. My gripe started in cardiff, in 2009, at the six nations grand slam final in the millenium stadium, when every man woman and child with a drop of welsh blood in them were dressed head to toe in red. And im not joking, so were dozens of munster fans. Planks.

    Oh by the way, I was there