World Cup Diary: Day 16

After three long nights without it, the World Cup returned on Friday night with the quarter-final between New Zealand and Scotland.

The sheer presence of the “big three” in separate ties means that only one of the quarter-finals is seen as being a real contest, something that will probably always be unavoidable for World Cup organisers.

That said, the trip to Headingley was that of anticipation, to see just how the Scots could stand up to the Kiwis given their spirited displays in the tournament so far.

It was the first time that I’d repeated a ground at the World Cup, having only made it to one of the games at Craven Park and neither of the games at Derwent Park, the only two venues to have hosted two games up to this point.

Learning from the mistakes of last time, we left Warrington a bit earlier, and managed to arrive around half 5, just in time for the food – cous cous and Moroccan chicken. Yes, they have that in Leeds, and unfortunately it wasn’t as impressive as it sounds.

Another mistake of last Friday was not to sneak some donuts from one of the vans before the queues built up, so Nathan Lawrenson kindly bought us 25 to share for the game.

Speaking of food, Monday night’s game between France v Samoa was the first I’ve seen live on TV during the tournament, and what a commentator Andrew Voss is. His enthusiasm, knowledge and passion for the game and what he does has been a breath of fresh air for television viewers I’m sure. He reads the game as if it’s a privilege for him to be there, rather than giving the impression that we’re privileged to listen to him, which is perhaps a trait of some other rugby league commentators.

Back to Leeds, and the connection wasn’t great. Managed to cast my eye over the Super League fixtures, out Monday, and then was the game.

There were some oohs and aahs in the first few minutes, most notably when Sonny Bill Williams was caught in a painful looking position, no doubt forcing his withdrawal part way through the match. But the Kiwi press were told not to worry in the post-match conference, when Danny Brough said “I’ve been in to see him, he’s alright, so don’t panic.” If only all coach and player comments were as honest and forthright!

That said, the Scots managed to set a new record for the longest wait for a press conference. They weren’t out til about half 10, meaning a bit of waiting around for the media, and a delay to rival that of the wait of Fiji at Rochdale several Mondays ago.

Then it was over to mixed zone for a few player interviews in the tunnel. Walking out of the players entrance to the hoardes of fans waiting for autographs afterwards is about as close as I’ll ever get to experiencing anything remotely like being a sportsman, although I’m sure the sight of me walking out leads to much disappointment to those waiting.

Another late night home, just before 1am, ahead of the double header quarter-final day of Saturday.

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