Sunday 31st August 2014 ko 15.00
Rugby League Championship 1
OXFORD RL 29
SOUTH WALES SCORPIONS 22
Att 240 at Oxford University RUFC, Iffley Road.
I’m indebted to Calne-based Paul Fergusson to alerting me to this one, especially to the location! My encounters with rugby started and finished with an ex-girlfriend who worked for Brakspear’s brewery in Henley-on-Thames and supplied a steady supply of complimentaries for me to be bored rigid watching Henley RUFC play in the second tier of English rugby union. Now there are many advantages of having a blonde girlfriend who gets staff discount at a brewery, but believe me rugby union wasn’t one! I should however point out though the end-of-season dinners were superb, I still don’t remember how I arrived back at my flat in Bell street with a Williams F1 brolly, and a meal for two at a rather swish Italian restaurant one year.
So as my life moved on, I studiously avoided rugby. It helped the Oxford isn’t exactly a hot-bed for the sport, with just London Welsh playing cuckoo at Oxford United whilst ignoring the inconvenience of local rugby in the process. Such is the attitude of the franchisor, but now there is a rugby club in the city that is by the city, for the city, and called the city. And unlike the itinerant Welshmen, they are very welcome.
It’s the 13-a-side game that the club plays, and they play at the lowest rung of the professional game, the third-tier Championship 1, to be restyled League 1 for next season. But it’s where they play that really appealed to me.
The Oxford University Rugby Ground, is on the Iffley Road, adjacent to the Iffley Road Running Track where Roger Bannister became the first athlete to break the four-minute mile. But next door is a quite wonderful stadium, and in a certain sense I’d have loved to have come here to photograph a football match. However I don’t think I’ll ever get this on a North Berkshire Hop, and it has to be said I had a hugely enjoyable afternoon out.
In the last few articles I’ve explored charm, and how it takes a club a long way even if not much else is going for them. Here was a classic example of it in action. I strolled up to the main entrance, and took a photo of the gates. The lady at the pay booth immediately checked I knew I was paying to watch Rugby League, unnecessary but kind, and it set the tone for the afternoon.
I’d not seen a Rugby League game live before, just the televised version, but the announcements made it simple enough to follow. The programme (somewhat overpriced in my opinion) revealed the Maesteg-based Scorpions are the bottom of the table with Oxford one place above. The game rather reflected the club’s positions in the league, each scoring as a result of the other team’s mistakes.
For all of that I found myself engrossed in the game, something that never happened back at Henley, and towards the end I found myself willing Oxford on, and grinned when they scored the winning try withy seconds left.
Oxford RL, I think you’ve got me!