And back to Twickers : 10th November 2018– THE MATCH that I’ve been waiting for!
I’ve never seen the All Blacks play… well, that’s not strictly true. I was at Twickenham, as part of ‘The Pack’ – volunteers at the Rugby World Cup 2015. We were in West carpark on Final Day, when The All Blacks played and beat Australia. We were allowed to creep into the stadium for a couple of minutes. So technically, I have seen the All Blacks. But this has been the match that I’ve always longed to see.
Three years ago, when England didn’t do so well in the World Cup, the feeling was doom and gloom until along came Eddie Jones, the saviour of England Rugby. Within a year, we had a winning streak that gave us all hope – much hope – and the feeling that we could take on that All Blacks and beat them was growing. I fully expected England to play them last year in the Autumn Internationals – indeed, I am still puzzled as to why there were only 3 matches last autumn and not the usual 4. However, this is the year and on Saturday, the match happened.
The day involved trains rather than the car from last week, along with my first ever uber. However, we got to Twickenham stadium and the place was simply buzzing. There was a great atmosphere. I always bet (in my Superbru!) on my team to win, and this was no exception. This time, I thought England would win by 2 points. In actuality, I honestly wasn’t sure that we would come away with the win. We needed to come out of the blocks straight away and not have the start that we had last week. We headed into the O2 Blueroom again – as with last week, I will recommend this experience for anyone on an O2 phone. Free pint and pasty and you get to hear interviews and play games with an England squad member – Jonathan Joseph this week.
Into the stadium and as it was, I think the weather played right into our hands. It started to rain and it was pretty much torrential for most of the match. Great for a kicking game, not so great for us, sitting in the corner, Lower, in Row 8. Whilst the view of the match was absolutely magnificent, we got soaked.
I spoke last week in my blog of wanting to hear the Haka - disappointingly, I couldn’t hear it. England fans chose to drown it out with Swing Low Sweet Chariot. I have read much discussion about this. Some say to sing over the Haka isn’t disrespectful as it isn’t their national anthem but a war challenge and thus we have the right of reply. Others say that it has no place in away matches and should be limited to home matches only. I also heard Ben Youngs say how hearing it being drowned out helped the team. I understand all of these views but for me, I haven’t ever seen the Haka live, and love that it is part of the All Blacks tradition and I shall remain disappointed that I couldn’t hear it live.
Onto the match – I don’t think I have ever heard Twickenham so loud or proud since the World Cup final. My friend Richard’s son was mascot today, which meant even more pride. Thomas did a wonderful job coming out with Owen Farrell and we cheered even louder for him. The atmosphere in the ground was simply electric and the singing… wow! Hairs on the back of my neck were standing up, as were we for much of the match. England were simply immense – physical, focussed and strong. We scored 2 tries in all – Hartley, the captain and Ashton. At half time we were in the lead 15-10 and our heads were high. To be honest, I’d have quite liked the match to end then. However, as is typical, the All Blacks came back and the match ended 15-16. It seemed strange to me to take the captain off at half time and to me, Owen Farrell looks uncomfortable in the position of captain. Perhaps he needs a bit less pressure on him?
As with last week, the game ended with controversy or a discussion point, whichever way you choose to view it. Underhill scored but then the ref went to the TMO. My dad always said to me, watch the teams. If one team goes back and the other stands right behind the line, then it’s a try because they know! This is what happened – the All Blacks stood behind the whitewash and the England team all went back for the reset. For a few heart stopping moments, the dream seemed real. My friend sat with me was sure that there wasn’t an off-side but as I always say, you can’t tell from your seat. Lawes was deemed to have been off-side so no try. Gutted, absolutely gutted. But as with last week, there have been stills and photos on social media that show both off-side and on-side. Nevertheless, the TMO said it so and that is that. This should not have resulted in booing at the final whistle but it did.
After the match, we headed into the Blueroom again to meet up with friends and to get dry. We heard Ben Youngs, Sam Underhill and Chris Ashton give their take on the match. Their interview can be viewed here https://www.facebook.com/OfficialEnglandRugby/videos/2168056019900272/UzpfSTUyOTUwMDU3NToxMDE2MDk2NDg0MzY1MDU3Ng/?comment_id=10160971834520576¬if_id=1542096837106179¬if_t=feed_comment
All in, if you’d said to me on Saturday that we’d end up within a point of beating the All Blacks, I’d have taken that. Obviously I’d have preferred a win but the team showed huge promise. After the Six Nations this year, where many fans criticized England for seemingly having no game plan or strength and too many injuries, this Autumn International series is showing that we do have a game plan and I believe that we are genuine contenders for that World Cup in Japan 2019. Talking of which, we take Japan on this weekend – bring them on, I say. I think that this time, I will be predicting more than a 2 point win!