World Cup Diary: Day 11

Eat, sleep, game, repeat.

A nice local game for me on Tuesday night took me to Leigh Sports Village. Spent most of the day at home, having decided against venturing to the office, and doing all of my required work at home.

We’re deep in to the tournament now. The group stage has become engrained as a daily routine, and it will be sad when Monday comes, and we’re back to just doing weekend games.

That said, I’m thankful for the Wednesday night off, as I’ve virtually been working every day and night for two weeks.

Got to Leigh relatively handy, secured a car parking spot on the infamous Leigh Sports Village car park, safe in that knowledge that hopefully by the time the press conferences had finished, I’d have a relatively seamless exit.

Usually at Leigh, the few media scurry in through the player’s entrance to a steward who has several pieces of card organised in an A-Z style with the media names on. Not so tonight. I wandered in through reception and ended up in the media room on the first floor, albeit without having signed in and without a ticket, just my RLWC media pass.

Fortunately, I’m a seasoned World Cup gamer, and made sure I located the media desk to complete the formalities a bit later on.

Food wise, Leigh did their best to defeat Hull KR from the night before. Shredded pork marinated in some sauce, on a barm, with seasoned potato wedges and red cabbage. A stellar effort. I do seem to recall that at a Championship launch a few years ago that LSV excelled in the food stakes.

Wi-fi seemed to work OK, and so I headed out to the press bench. They’ve installed a couple of extra rows, specifically for the World Cup I believe, to accommodate the extra attention, and a good crowd packed out LSV, a stadium record in fact.

LSV has to be one of the best views from a press box in rugby league. You’re bang on half way, right above the tunnel, and there is nothing to impede your view.

The game produced two of the most bizarre moments of the tournament – Sam Mataora playing the ball the wrong way (facing his own goal line) to concede a penalty, and Jordan Rapana inexplicably failing to ground the ball when diving over to score a try, which would ultimately cost the Cook Islands.

It was one of those games that means a late call on the match report, but managed to get it file close enough after the hooter, and then get back to the media room for the press conference.

There were some interesting, but fair, comments from David Fairleigh about their World Cup experience, based in Bristol.

He said: “It was good to be up in Leigh, a rugby league town. We’re stuck away from it all in Bristol, and not really feeling the World Cup down there. No disrespect to them but the boys coming in to Leigh felt rugby league and felt the vibe of the World Cup, and it’s good to be a part of it.”

One final word on the crowd at Leigh, a stadium record of 10,544. It was great to see the stadium full, and a reward for the people responsible for getting the stadium developed in the first place. I noticed that around a quarter of the ground had emptied by the end, a shame given the close game on show.

I was slightly disappointed that there wasn’t a better atmosphere in the ground – had seen a few mentions about a “we’re just a bus stop in Tonga” chant, but didn’t hear it. To be fair, although there’s been some great crowds in the tournament, only a few have made a decent amount of noise so far.

Safe in the knowledge I was only 10 miles from home, had a good old chat with Dave Parkinson, Leigh’s very own commentator extraordinaire, about all things rugby league, before exiting the deserted car park for a traffic free drive home.

Night off tonight, and then it’s over to Salford for an intriguing game between USA and Scotland on Thursday.

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