The World Cup went to Wales for the second time on Sunday, as Wrexham hosted the first of their two games.
It meant, for the fourth time in the tournament, travelling to a game without touching the M62 (Cardiff, Warrington – for me at least, and Bristol).
After being up until about 2am on Saturday night finishing off from the day’s games, I was up a bit late on Sunday and was rushing around. Managed to just about scrape all my stuff together and set off.
My house is full of World Cup debris – match tickets, car park passes, internet access codes, match programmes, team sheets, the lot.
I’d not been a game at Wrexham for a while, and remembered parking isn’t always great. I managed to get some free street parking a stone’s throw from the ground though, which was good.
It took me longer than usual to get in to the ground, mainly because nobody seemed to have a clue where the media entrance was. I got sent up to the top of the main stand, only to look out at the pitch with no signs of anybody else, and then did a couple of laps of the stadium with people sending me in various directions.
It turns out that on my previous visits to Wrexham, I must have dodged the press room, which is actually tucked away in one of the ends behind the posts. Got there in the end, and had a cuppa soup for my troubles.
Shared the horrendous image of Widnes’ back-rower Adam Lawton’s elbow (see Twitter) with former Vikings official snapper Ste Jones and incoming Head of Communications Ian Cheveau, before heading outside to go to the other stand to get my seat.
I had feared it would be as bad as Crusaders’ first Super League game against Leeds, which was just mad busy, but it wasn’t. Settled in to a seat, the main problem being the piercing sun glaring right at us. I was thankful for the desk, if anything so I could rest my elbows on it while shielding the sun from my eyes!
The position at Wrexham means you can’t really see what goes on in the right hand corner on the near side, although as it happened, not much went down there, save for a bombed USA try first half.
There was a decent crowd, all kitted out with various Wales memorabilia such as flags and scarves, that were doing a cracking trade outside the ground. But they were left disappointed with the result, although they at least had something to cheer about with a few late tries.
USA coach Terry Matterson was like a Cheshire cat in the press conference, and rightly so. He batted away a fairly bitter question from a Welsh journalist, who asked what the plans were to grow the sport in the USA, something which Matterson will have had little input or knowledge of given his short tenure in the job.
The bitterness stretched to Wales head coach Iestyn Harris, who had a small dig at the number of Australians in the USA team. To be fair, I thought Harris handled the press conference impeccably apart from that, and he’s always a good talker to the press. That comment though prompted a later tweet from the official USA Tomahawks account, confirming that actually 10 of their side are USA nationals. Of course, that doesn’t mean they don’t have an Aussie accent, but hey.
Hung around the press room for a bit after the game and got talking to Anthony Bullick, a contact of mine who is based in north Wales. A couple of the Australian journalists were sat around watching Scotland v Italy which had started not long after full time in Wrexham.
It was 14-0 when I left, and by the time I got home, it sounded like I’d missed a cracker. For the second Sunday running, you were left wishing that you could have got to both games.
What it did mean, though, was that I had a couple of hours to myself to chill out after a long weekend working. No early night though – I was on TalkSport at 11 to do a pre-record for their World Cup coverage that runs through the night and early morning.
I must praise, once again, the RLWC communications staff who are doing a fantastic job of ensuring the tournament runs smoothly, namely Garry and Tom on Sunday. There’s a lot of work behind the scenes that goes unnoticed by fans especially, and given the criticism that the RFL often gets, it’s important to point out success stories.
So that’s another day in the books. I’m now full of a cold thanks to the St Helens weather, shouldn’t stop me making it to Hull this evening though. See you there.