Of all the things I have discovered whilst living in the UK, the game of rugby is definitely in my top 10 favourites. I played for two years during my undergrad degree, and it was an absolute blast. It was equal parts frightening, hilarious, and empowering. The game itself is ridiculously fun to play, and I have found that, at least with women’s rugby, anyone who joins in has got to be a little bit crazy (in the best way possible). Rugby is becoming more common in America thanks largely to college sport, but it is still vastly underrated in my opinion.
The past month I have been
religiously watching the 2016 Six Nations Championship. England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France, and Italy compete against each other to achieve European rugby glory (and hopefully avoid being awarded the Wooden Spoon – a prize awarded to the last place team). Knowing we were going to be in Edinburgh around this time, a few of my friends and I decided to try and get tickets. Being able to see an international rugby match live has been on my bucket list for three years now. Plus, students can get some pretty good prices, so I am milking that for all it is worth. Fast forward six months, and the long wait was over.
Even before match-day itself, things were off to a good start. My parents were visiting that weekend, so I was already having a great time. The day before the match we decided to hit up Artisan Cheesecakes for an afternoon treat (their mini Oreo truffle cheesecakes are fabulous, by the way). Between me, my flat-mate, and my parents, it was taking us a little while to decide on the best sampler spread of slices to eat. As we were leaving, I glanced at the guy who was in line behind us (poor soul), who reminded me very much of one of the few Scottish players I know. As we walked away, I told this to my friend who stopped in her tracks, saying that the guy was wearing official-looking Scotland gear, something I had obviously missed. A minor freak-out commenced, followed by a conversation which I belive consisted of only the word ‘dude’. This Finn Russell sighting cannot be confirmed or denied, but we are going to go with yes for the sake of a good story.
Now back to the match itself – I had been to Murrayfield Stadium once before for the Edinburgh v. St. Andrew’s Varsity Rugby match, but this was on another level. The tram was absolutely packed with people suited up in endless combinations of blue, white, and red heading out of the city centre . My favourite was definitely the group of guys dressed like stereotypical French men complete with striped shirts, berets, fake mustaches, and baguettes. Also, never before have I seen so many kilts per square metre. I felt much better once I had my own face paint to show off. The stadium itself reminded me of a fairground when we first arrived. Dozens of food stalls were spread around the perimeter teeming with excited fans. At no point until I entered the stadium itself did I stop hearing bagpipes.
It wasn’t like a lot of the super-mega-whatever complexes you get in the states. Murrayfield consists of two levels of seating around the pitch and the staircases to get there plus a few VIP seating kind of areas. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a big place that accommodates a lot of people, but there were no frills or gimmicks. It isn’t surrounded by a giant parking garage or filled with floors upon floors of food stalls and gift shops. There were no aquariums behind home plate. The pitch I went to in Newcastle a few years ago was just a field with some stadium benches around it. I would hardly call it a stadium, in fact, but I loved how low-key it felt. People were there for the rugby, to be with their friends or family or whoever. It wasn’t complicated. Granted, I’ve only ever been to two stadiums back in the states (Citi Field and Giants Stadium), so I may be generalizing a bit too much.
I was pumped just walking around outside, so the fact that the match itself was entertaining was the icing on the cake. Normally when it comes to international rugby I am an avid Ireland supporter, but I was happy to cheer on my new home for one match. Plus after hanging out with a Scotland player and bonding over cheesecake, not supporting them would have just been plain rude. By the end I was so emotionally invested that my heart was racing, my throat was hoarse from shouting, and I was really, really tired. If that is how emotional I get for another team, I can only imagine how I’d be at the end of an Ireland match. In the end, Scotland killed it winning 29-18 (the first time they’ve won two matches in a Six Nations tournament since 2013!).
Now comes the part I had been dreading this whole time. Leaving. I am used to ducking out ten or fifteen minutes before a game ends to try and get back to the car and out of the stadium before the inevitable three hour traffic jam ensues. Here everyone was just walked back to the city together. Walked. It’s not a far walk, only thirty minutes or so if walking relatively slowly. They literally shut down the main road and diverted all traffic so we could meander on home. Not to mention there was an adorable child playing the bagpipes every few hundred metres. A couple pubs along the way had their doors open and tents set up outside to accommodate the thirsty supporters. It was so easy. I was dumbstruck. From start to finish, the atmosphere was contagious. And here I was thinking I couldn’t love rugby more. It was indeed a good day. Needless to say, I have already booked tickets to see another rugby match at Murrayfield.
10/10 Would Recommend.
P.S. Congrats England on the Grand Slam!