In a wonderful women’s rugby final, the Pirates faced off against Varsity. Previously in the season, the Pirates had lost to Varsity with a score of Pirates: 7 to Varsity: 31. We had also beaten Varsity in a very close game of Pirates: 31 to Varsity: 29. What would the final bring?
A dry, sandy field in St. Clair and a very strong wind changed the Pirates strategy on game day. We had planned to run a kicking game, which Varsity wouldn’t expect from us. Unfortunately, whenever the ball got kicked, the wind gusts would push it unexpectedly! We had the wind with us for the first half, which helped, although a few random gusts did send the ball backwards a few times.
Varsity played a strong offence, forcing the Pirates to up our defensive game. We certainly did! Although Varsity managed to keep possession of the ball for approximately 70% of the game, Pirates held them in mid-field, allowing us to score most of the time when we got the ball.
This was a game where I really saw all of those little tricks and techniques that we had practised so much come into play. Forwards run the ball up a few times to draw their team to one side, then shoot it out to the backs where there is now a gap in their defence. Get the ball to the far edge and just keep knocking it up with two pods of 3 ladies running pistons. So great to see!
After 80 minutes of well-played rugby where both teams kept fighting right to the very end, Pirates won 37-10! There was much celebrating for the night and for the entire week. I am so proud of everyone that I’ve played with, all of the support that they gave me as a new player, and all of the encouragement after I got injured.
Andrew and I both turned 30 over the last year. For our birthday’s, Andrew’s wonderful sisters got us tickets to see the local provincial team, the Highlanders, take on the British and Irish Lions in their 2017 tour.
Yes, Andrew and I have become quite passionate about rugby. I’ve always quite enjoyed football (aka american/Canadian football, aka gridiron), and Andrew has always enjoyed hockey. The hockey isn’t quite as relevant, although he was largely just missing playing a sport. Rugby though…it’s like football if they didn’t stop the play every time someone touched the ball and fell down.
Andrew and I had fairly good tickets for the game. Right at the try line (aka the goal line for those who don’t know rugby), close to the front.
We were both quite glad that it is a covered stadium. The game was only a week from the winter solstice and, while the weather had been fairly nice for the weeks leading up to the game, that day dawned cold and wet. In an uncovered stadium it is likely that the game would have been cancelled with how wet and muddy all the fields were.
Andrew and I dressed quite warmly thanks to jackets that we brought from Canada. I was asked more than once where I’d gotten my jacket actually! We also brought a light blanket to keep our legs warm. While it is easy to stay warm while walking and moving, it’s quite different sitting on cold seats for 90 minutes!
What a game it was too! I honestly wasn’t expecting much. The British and Irish Lions are the national team and are going to be taking on the All Blacks later in the tour. Considering that the Highlanders are a level lower and are sitting at the bottom of their league, I was expecting to see some good, but not exceptional rugby.
The Highlanders certainly played well! The game was tied at half time (10 all), with the Lions pulling ahead in the second half. A few fans actually started leaving when the Lions managed to pull ahead to 22-10 within the first 10 minutes of the second half. The Highlanders fought back though, scoring their final try with minutes left on the clock, and then defending well to finish with a final score of 22-23 for the Highlanders.
So, as I’ve mentioned…Andrew and I joined the Pirates Club Rugby this year. It’s been a bit of a crazy hectic season with both of us new to the sport, but we are loving it.
Pirates Prem 2’s
So, like all sports, there are different levels. For men, there’s the normal community touch, recreational leagues that you find everywhere, but there are also the official club leagues.
Andrew is playing on the premier 2 rugby team. This team feeds into the premier team, which feeds into the provincial teams (such as the Highlanders). There’s some quite competitive guys there!
A lot of them are surprised that Andrew is completely new to the sport since, like hockey in Canada, most of them have been playing rugby since they were 3-5 years old.
Andrew is doing really well and is usually playing most games (there are enough guys that they tend to put the newer players on for substitutions so that they can watch and learn more). He generally plays as a #14 winger. This means he is the back row defence; if he gets the ball he is supposed to take it and run as fast as he can up the sideline. It’s also his job to catch any of the opposing team’s offensive players if they manage to get a breakaway.
Unfortunately the men’s rugby team is struggling a little bit this year and has lost every game so far. They are getting closer though!
Also know as Pirates Women. Wahine is Women in Maori. I’m learning!
My rugby team has done amazingly well this year. Although we officially lack a coach, I have learnt a great deal from the senior members of the team. While it is difficult for them, wanting to train with the team, but being forced to coach as well, I have been quite grateful!
One of our ladies has just gotten called up to the national rugby team (the Black Ferns), which says a lot for the quality of women’s rugby in Dunedin. Go Angie!!
The position that I play is #1, or the loose-head prop. It is my job to take a short pass and do my best to gain a couple of meters by charging straight into and through the opposing team. During a line-out, I’m in the front lifting our jumper, then driving forwards once we have the ball. During a scrum I am in the front row, binding onto the opposing team and trying to gain control of the scrum.
One of the best parts of being a forward in rugby on a cold or rainy day is the scrum…cuddle party!
Thus far, we have only lost one game, although we did draw with North Otago the second time we played them.
We have two more rugby games before the semi-finals and are hopeful that we can bring home the banner this year!
Of course, you can’t play a full contact sport like rugby without a couple of injuries. Luckily, having a free and dedicated physio and clinic is part of being in the club!! Andrew’s injuries have luckily been quite minor, limited to a grade 1 hamstring pull and a few bruises and scrapes.
I, unfortunately, haven’t been quite so lucky. With only 3 minutes left in our game against Varsity I took a bad tackle from one of their props and felt my knee snap to the side, out of joint, and then back in. I then decided that it would be a very good idea to just lay on the field for awhile.
I was apparently quite concerned about where my mouthguard had gone since I lost it in the tackle (I got hit HARD). I mainly remember a lot of ouchie.
I am exceptionally grateful to my amazing team, from the opposing team’s physio who checked me out at the field (our physio was playing), to the manager who helped me off the field, to my awesome team-mates who took me to the sports clinic, took me to get crutches and dinner, and helped take care of me until Andrew could get off work. I couldn’t have done it without them!
As for rehab…it’s going…slowly…
It’s only been 4 weeks (I keep reminding myself). I have/had a grade 2 MCL sprain (the ligament on the inside of the knee) and possible/probable damage to the meniscus (which is the cartilage in the knee joint). The sprain is healing quite nicely, but I haven’t yet managed to regain mobility in the knee. It will bend from 0-90 degrees and simply refuses to bend further. I shouldn’t be able to put full weight on it, but I can. I can also manage all of the physio exercises without any difficulty…apart from my knee not bending. So it is probably off to the MRI to figure out exactly what is going on and why it won’t bend.
Rugby is huge in New Zealand. It isn’t uncommon to see kids playing rugby in fields at a very young age and people tossing a rugby ball around on the beach. It is actually more common than basically any other sport, with the possible exception of cricket and skiing.
Kiwi’s are also quite fanatical and proud of the All Blacks, New Zealand’s rugby team. It probably helps that the All Blacks stand largely undefeated, with Australia and South Africa being their largest opponents.
We’ve been learning the sport slowly, and discovering the differences between league, union, super, 7’s, 10’s, and all the other numerous variations. It is quite a lot of fun though! I have always enjoyed watching the CFL and rugby is basically like football without breaks every time the players get tackled.
For Christmas, Andrew and I got tickets to see the British and Irish Lions vs. the local Dunedin team of the Highlanders in June. We tried to get tickets to the All Blacks, but they are popular enough that ticket sales are generally by ballot/lottery to be able to purchase them. The last time the Lions faced off against the All Blacks was back in 2005 and it was quite the game!
Andrew and I had the opportunity to see a Rugby league game when the Warriors came to town. Usually league games don’t come to as small of a town as Dunedin, but we got lucky since the Adele concerts forced a change of venue.
Andrew’s boss’s boss had corporate tickets in one of the boxes and invited both of us to join him. He had initially invited only Andrew and Andrew’s boss but one of his coworkers passed up the opportunity so I got invited as well.
It was so much fun! We had watched rugby on TV in the Octagon, but this was our first live game. It surprised me that there was no commentary in the game, which made it a little bit more difficult to figure out what was going on.
Thankfully I don’t mind playing the part of the ignorant girl, so I kept asking the guys questions on the game. Towards the end of the game I was starting to understand the rules.
It also looked like a fair bit of fun. Andrew and I have both been missing playing sports. He had been looking into hockey, but it doesn’t make sense to\buy all new gear or ship gear here until we know whether we can stay. So…we decided to join a rugby club in the area. We are both Pirates now!
Our first practice went well and we have been invited back to play. I’m on the women’s team and Andrew is on the seniors team (basically the non-premiere less competitive league). I have realized that I have lost a lot of endurance since being a part of the awesome Flux gym in Regina.
Rugby. New Zealand’s national sport. I guess when you have a home team that is one of the best in the world, it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of a game.
Admittedly, I had never really watched rugby before we came to New Zealand. Now, I think it is my new favourite sport. It’s like football, but way cooler. Imagine football if they didn’t stop the play every time the ball touches the ground. It makes for a much more challenging and dynamic sport.
Last year, Andrew and I had the chance to sit down with a local family and watch the New Zealand All Blacks win the 2015 World Cup Championships. It was such an incredible game with two extremely talented teams.
While there are still quite a few rules that I don’t understand, I’m starting to figure the game out. Thankfully, everyone in New Zealand is really passionate about rugby and doesn’t mind explaining the game to newbies. Andrew and I have spent a few nights sitting at bars soaking up the atmosphere and excitement while we watch the All Blacks dominate.
Palmerston North features New Zealand’s National Rugby museum, filled not only with history and a massive array of memorabilia, but also with a test area where everyday people can put their skills to the test. With our newfound passion for the sport, it was interesting to visit the museum and learn about its history.
New Zealand had one of the first women’s rugby teams. They also led the world’s anti-racism movement during the apartheid rein in South Africa. They pushed for the South African team to play in New Zealand with coloured players and requested that their Maori players be permitted to play in South Africa. Although there was a lot of political tension that occasionally resulted in cancelled games, the rugby field was one of the first truly diverse areas.
Ever the engineer, I really enjoyed seeing how the rugby ball evolved. From early pig-stomachs covered in pig-skin, the museum showed how the ball has changed to what it is today. Advancing technology, standardized requirements, and increased popularity changed the shape of the ball to what it is currently.
Rugby also played an important part in the New Zealand national identity, which developed during the first World War. Many kiwis brought a rugby ball as their personal item when they left to fight in the war and impromptu games were a means of recreation. Developing their identity and playing on kiwi teams, they developed a strong sense of pride. Creating a team, they actually detoured on the way home from the war to play test matches in both London and South Africa.
Andrew and I had a lot of fun in the trial area too. Andrew is much faster at sprinting than I am (of course), but I am faster at tackling. Surprisingly, I also got the rugby ball through the goal posts on both attempts, but I think that was fluke more than anything. I enjoyed the tackle station, which had two tackle posts that we had to take down as quickly as possible.
There was also a scrum machine, which tested how strong of a scrum we had. There weren’t any units on the machine, so the numbers are relatively meaningless, but Andrew’s scrum measured at 180 and mine was at 147! Not bad!
I would love to find a pickup or casual team sometime and try actually playing a game of rugby. Maybe I would be able to get over my dislike of playing sports with balls; I have a habit of stepping on footballs and soccer balls, which is why I stuck to wrestling and discus in school.