The World Cup headed to my hometown on Sunday, and what a treat it was.
First task of the day was to get back from Cardiff. Glad for the extra hour courtesy of the clocks going back, and glad that I’d made the decision to stay in Cardiff on the Saturday night too.
Went down for breakfast and then spent a bit of time typing up press conference notes from Carlo Napolitano and Cameron Smith for stories on Sunday, before the cleaners ushered me out of my room at check-out time of 11.
Then came the 192 mile drive back to Warrington. For a moment, had my eye on getting back for 2pm, before realising that the Papua New Guinea v France match in Hull was kicking off at 4pm, so wouldn’t be able to catch it.
It’s a shame the scheduling meant such a clash on only the second day of the tournament. Would have liked to have watched both matches, even if one had to be on the TV. In fact, one other journalist suggested that maybe the Bristol game should have been held on the Sunday, given most people were already down those ways for the double header in Cardiff.
Headed down to Warrington town centre around 3pm. My office, the home of Love Rugby League, is in the town centre on Bold Street, so parked my car there, and went to walk across to the ground.
There were plenty of World Cup volunteers about signposting fans to the right place. Then as I got to the middle of the town centre, a sizeable crowd had gathered for a dance display, Window on Warrington. Unfortunately, despite waiting around for a bit, I didn’t get to see the performance itself, but I hear it went down well.
Continued on to the ground, and there was a small queue at the media entrance. Bumped in to the RFL’s Rob Singleton on the stairs going up, much to his sarcastic annoyance, given we seem to see each other everywhere at the moment.
Then it was straight out to the press bench to see what the facilities were like for the World Cup. Let’s just say there’s not much leg room in the Warrington press box, and I’m not the biggest of blokes by a long chalk.
By now, the Papua New Guinea v France game had started, and one of the Australian media guys had got a stream up on his laptop, so tuned in to that for 10 or so minutes, enough time to see Papua New Guinea’s bizarre first try.
Down to the press room next, mainly to grab a programme. Hot drinks are a fairly standard offering in all press rooms, but they aren’t my cup of tea! There were beef baguettes on offer, and having not eaten since breakfast I got rid of one of them.
Then caught up with photographer Ste Jones, who I know well from watching and covering Widnes. That conversation was interrupted by one of the volunteers telling us that apparently all the media seats were going to be reallocated because “someone unexpected” has turned up. I’ve still not found out who it was. But either way, I ended up going outside to check my stuff hadn’t been shifted.
Fortunately it hadn’t, so I took my seat. As I say, it’s pretty tight at Warrington, and once you’re in the press box, there’s no getting out! I was sandwiched in between Warrington Guardian newspaper reporter Chris Terris-Taylor and Forty-20 magazine editor Tony Hannan.
The wi-fi connection was non-existent, so it was a case of getting the 3G set up and hoping that the signal held firm. Tony was having problems, but I seemed to get on OK. I had a couple of downtimes both before and during the game, and as such had to make a call to our data feed suppliers to tell them that I wouldn’t be able to do the live scores manually on site for this game.
That left me with social media updates and a match report to do.
After 20 minutes, we weren’t too hopeful of an enjoyable evening. New Zealand looked capable of running up a cricket score. But Samoa dug in, and the second half was an absolute pleasure. Breathless and pulsating, the sell out crowd at Warrington really got behind the Samoans, and they really had the Kiwis wobbling at one point.
We were treated to two rare incidents – first, when the video referee “pressed the wrong button” on a try/no try decision for Antonio Winterstein – captain Sia Soliola later told us that when he went to referee Richard Silverwood to ask why a try hadn’t been given, Silverwood told him it had, but the wrong button had been pressed – and then the Sonny Bill Williams incident.
Just as we were salivating over his run, fend and sheer brilliance, he delayed grounding the ball, slipped and then went over the dead ball line before he could get it down. It perhaps typified the second half for the Kiwis, who eventually made sure thanks to Manu Vatuvei’s hat-trick.
Report done and added to the site, it was downstairs for the press conferences. In first was Soliola and Matt Parish, followed by Stephen Kearney and Simon Mannering. Kearney was in a relatively good mood considering, and his attitude and manner in the press conference was absolutely first class.
I made the decision to take the short trip home to type up the notes from the game, grabbing an unhealthy tea on my way back, sitting down at home at around 9.15. Spent some time sourcing and editing a couple of images, before updating the social media channels, and having a read through some of the Papua New Guinea v France stuff.
It’s fair to say whoever was updating the live text for the official RLWC site at Craven Park was enthusiastic, never seen as many exclamation marks in my life!
At 10.15, had a call from TalkSport, who had me on their programme to discuss the World Cup. It’s usually a pre-record, so goes out through the night and early in the morning. Was good to reflect on the weekend’s games, especially as it had been such a busy one.
After that, it was catching up on some emails. The Fiji squad had hit my inbox, so it was time to put the preview together for their game with Ireland on Monday, and then schedule a few more reaction pieces for the day.
Hoping to get a couple of hours off on Monday, before heading to Rochdale. See you there.
To see the previous posts in my World Cup diary, click here.