OPINION: The live rugby itch was finally scratched
Getting into a freshly made bed. A hot shower after a really long day. Playing with a puppy. Waking up to get ready for work only to realise it’s a holiday. Seeing Owen Farrell not escape punishment for one of his special tackles. You get the picture. There are many “best feelings”, and it can be very different for different people.
But one of the best bests, one that’s universal and non-negotiable if you’re a rugby fan? Waking up for a game after three months of no live rugby. That’s near unbeatable. And what made it even better is the fact that the Kiwis certainly didn’t disappoint when they got down to business during the opening round of Super Rugby Aotearoa.
It was superb. It was delicious. And it was totally worth losing a few hours of sleep, but I guess at this point any rugby would be, really.
It wasn’t so much about the fixtures or the teams involved, for me, it was almost entirely the mere fact that there was rugby on a weekend again that did enough to inject the amount of excitement you’d expect to feel the night before a blockbuster Test match. Add in there the fact that rugby was played in front of packed crowds - with yesterday’s derby between the Blues and Hurricanes a sold-out out affair - and something as simple, something as standard as a feeling of “normal” was back, and in times like these, normality has never mattered more.
Nothing better than having fans back at the footy! 🙌🏼— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) June 15, 2020
What a special occasion it was at Eden Park for the first sold out sporting event post-lockdown. We headed along to check out the atmosphere.
Investec #SuperRugbyAotearoa pic.twitter.com/DoG2v8MSDA
The Chiefs and Highlanders put up a thriller of a contest that featured sweet tries mixed with power (i.e. those driving maul five-pointers by the Highlanders) and dramatic drop-goals I mean, who would have scripted Chiefs coach Warren Gatland’s own son, Bryn landing the drop that sunk his father’s team on Saturday?
The Blues’ victory over the Hurricanes wasn’t any less impressive, and while there were a whopping 58 penalties accumulated during those two run-outs, with a significant portion of that coming at the breakdown, it mattered not. After all, these guys hadn’t played rugby in quite a while, yet at times some of them looked as refreshed as a team on a mission after a bye rather than teams making their way back from months of rugby absence.
There can be nothing good said about the Covid-19 pandemic and the results thereof, but if you really had to look for something related to sport, it could be that the situation of the last few months might just help reignite something that’s long been missing in Super Rugby.
And this weekend was the perfect start.