The downside of connectivity: I spent the morning doing some work for back in New Zealand.
Mayhem went off for a meander of the neighbourhood to find a Japanese RWC2019 jersey, which are very very cool (and also very very unavailable due to some ordering officer not realising there was a Rugby World Cup happening in the vicinity which might like a bit of very very cool).
We arranged to meet up at the sports bar of the night before to watch the first match, before going on to Sapporo Dome.
RWC2019 Match 5: Italy 47 Namibia 22
Once the bar owner had figured out which channel the rugby was on, we discovered that Namibia had scored the first try with a nice break down the right, and a good line run by the halfback on the inside. That was the high point.
The Nambians kept their hearts in the match but it was never going to be their breakthrough win. Even against an Italian side that will be going home at the end of the pool play. Moments of flair, but just about average on a good day.
On the upside, I met another good Aussie: Jim from Yass. Not a fan of Mr Cheika, either. Go figure.
RWC2019 Match 6: Ireland 27 Scotland 3
I’d like to tell you about this match but I can’t because, for some bizarre reason, it was not being shown on the big screens at Sapporo Dome.
Mayhem and I had made the strategic decision to get to the Dome early early to avoid the subway rush, confident that we’d be seeing the Irish and Scots on the big screens having a ding-dong while we waited.
Nope. We got several videos explaining lineouts and scrums to the locals. And round the block queues for food, beverages and the consequential toilets. (RWC announced today that you can bring your own food to the stadia from now on, which is maybe their way of saying they stuffed up.)
Being smart fellas, we sat in the gods of the Dome and waited for the beer sellers to come to us. About NZD$10 for the sponsor’s product, but at least you avoided the queue.
Right. Where was I? Yes, that’s right, I know nothing about this match expect the score. The win for Ireland was expected, but Scotland’s 3 is a bad bad sign.
Best headline was from the Irish Times: Ireland now on a collision course with South Africa. That’s the spirit of worry, anxiety and pessimism that makes for great rugby teams.
RWC2019 Match 7: England 35 Tonga 3
Let’s get my angry stuff out of the way upfront. At the end of the match the Tongan team lined up and bowed to the audience.
At the end of the match the England team lined up and clapped at the audience.
No. Just no. That is tone deaf Little Englander rubbish. You’re in Japan FFS. It’s the first Rugby World Cup outside Tier 1, the first in Asia. You might want to show some respect to where you are and who is hosting you.
It’s the sort of rubbish spouted throughout the match from the Yorkshire gentleman directly behind us throughout the match. (Including the classic line “I didn’t see anything from the All Blacks or Springboks last night to scare me” and culminating in the proud boast “I must be the most hated man in the stadium”. Uh-huh. I hope he didn’t book his trip with Thomas Cook.) He occasionally attempted to start a rousing audience sing-along of Swing Low, but thankfully there was no enthusiasm. And that is an interesting data point.
There is possibly much to like about the English side. Their fitness, their strength and size, and a couple of players of genuinely superior talent.
But they were off their game last night: passes just behind the player, fumbles and pointless penalties. Not a good effort.
And oh Tonga. Lots and lots of tackling practise because every time they had the ball, until late in the game, they box kicked. Every bloody time, and gave the ball back to the English to fumble. And they sent a telegraph every single time: “Hey England, we’ll be kicking the ball to you in just a moment, so you might want to fall back and get ready for it.”
So not a great game, unless Eddie Jones wanted a long list of work-ons.
But the Dome was fabulous, and the crowd was glorious, and the trip back on a squashed subway was another Japanese moment to treasure. Exquisitely organised with squads of staff every step of the way, and unfailing politeness even in the face of the most boorish behaviour from well-liquored bozos who know no better.
Thank you Sapporo.