Finally, pardon the pun, I had arrived. Before me stood the giant Twickenham gates, no doubt tall enough to keep any sort of White Walker out. Not tall enough however to stop the assault of Wallabies and Leeks on the rose garden that England stood to protect. Nevertheless, that was another story in itself.
Brushing such thorny roses behind, my dad and I entered. Before us was a wave of fans wearing black or yellow, that we had to part. Like Moses we strode through, parting the All Black supporters wearing their customary All Black shirts, from the Wallaby supporters, most of whom dressed up in cork hats and wigs.
"Scanning around the stadium glimpses of gold protruded, like gold coins in a treasure trove of black velvet."
Grabbing a beer was the next task. Queuing up behind the Heineken stall one could hear the murmuring of anticipation. “Will Carter last the 80 minutes?” “Will the ref save Australia again?” were a few topics on everyone’s lips. Grasping the beer like a trophy (due to its £1 cup return policy), me and my dad headed to our seats. Gate 28 would be our destination.
Walking into the ground was a surreal experience. Scanning around the stadium glimpses of gold protruded, like gold coins in a treasure trove of black velvet. As I sat down I was reminded of an All Blacks supporters shirt that read, “I will support anyone who plays the wallabies”. Yes I thought, Australia would need something special.
"I witnessed a historic moment. New Zealand, a class and ‘Carter’ apart, finished the game off with such accuracy that would make the trophy inscriber proud."
And this proved to be so. The All Blacks came out firing, as only they could. Spectacular tries from Nonu and Milner-Skudder sent the stadium into eruption. An active volcano Twickenham had become. However no one expected the fight back that was to ensue. Like a Hollywood boxing movie, Australia fought back. Two brilliant, bruising tries set up a thrilling last 10 minutes.
My knees shaking like a phone on a continual vibrate, I witnessed a historic moment. New Zealand, a class and ‘Carter’ apart, finished the game off with such accuracy that would make the trophy inscriber proud. One try, penalty, and drop goal finished the Wallabies off. As they lifted the trophy, fireworks like lava encompassed the Twickenham sky. Not one seat was left at this time, as on this day the greatest sporting team inscribed itself into the tales of folklore.
After England’s disappointing effort at the Rugby World Cup 2015, and therefore failing to make it out of the pool stages, I was more than happy to don my tartan and support my family roots. It only felt right to make it a family affair and head to the fanzone that was purpose built for the occasion just outside of St James’ Park.
There was an impressive turn out for the Scotland vs. Samoa match, considering the home nation was already knocked out and their bitter rivals were competing to qualify. Nonetheless, the atmosphere was electric and there was no animosity amongst the English and the Scottish and even the Samoan fans for that matter. Although there was a clear majority of kilts and bagpipes, there was a fair share of English supporters there, cheering on their British counterparts and putting aside the infamous braveheart rivalry.
"the atmosphere was electric and there was no animosity amongst the English and the Scottish"
The fanzone accommodated everyone, from families to couples and people of all ages. There was a real community feel about the area and city as a whole. Before the match, the Scottish national anthem erupted around the fanzone, and I’m sure as well as within St James’. The chanting never wavered and the support was full throttle until the end, which saw the tartan army emerge victorious and progress into the knock out stages.
As for the effects on the city, the sportsmanship was exemplary. The Scots were out and about in the town in full force following the game, getting stuck into the Newcastle nightlife. Having headed out into the town that night myself, I can safely say there was no trouble between the fans, and all supporters were just embracing the opportunity to see another city and soak up the atmosphere of the occasion.
Deciding to arrive at St. James’ 20mins before kick off perhaps wasn’t our finest moment. We were dropped off near Trent House and made our way on foot. We’d never been to the stadium before, so navigating thought the dense mass of Scottish and South African supporters was less than simple. We did of course join in with many a verse of ‘O’ Flower of Scotland’, the Scots being one of the home nations and all.
After what seemed like an age we made our way through the heaving crowds and into Leazes Stand, directly behind the posts and high up above the pitch below. On finding our seats it was a relief to see that we were flanked by an extremely vocal group of die hard Scots. In our inebriated state we had no problem belting out the chants.
"We did of course join in with many a verse of ‘O’ Flower of Scotland’, the Scots being one of the home nations and all."
The atmosphere when the national anthems began was incredible; despite being over 9000km away the South African fans were unbelievably loud. Not to be outdone, the Scots (us included) drowned out the stadium, I’m sure you would have heard it in Jesmond it was that loud.
"The atmosphere when the national anthems began was incredible; despite being over 9000km away the South African fans were unbelievably loud."
The game itself was a cracker, real end-to-end stuff. Scotland showed a lot of resilience in defence but in the end South Africa were just too dominant in attack and at the breakdown. Despite the second half passing as a bit of a drunken blur, the final whistle was a moment to remember, one team elated, one team dejected but the noise from the crowd continued as loud as ever. Disgruntled as the Scots were, hats off to them for giving some of the best support I’ve ever seen at a sports game.