Rugby: Observations from a Novice

I recently had a chance to attend my first ever rugby league game, cheering for the Manly Sea Eagles. Before we got there, Chris gave me the lowdown on the rules and, once it started, was patient enough to answer my questions every few minutes. I got the gist, but I’m far from mastering the subject.

So what were my first impressions? I’ll tell you…

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It’s kinda like American football – This is both good and bad. It certainly helped me to understand the basics, but it’s a bit confusing when there are deviations. Just when I think I know what’s happening, something is different from what I expect.

Clear timing – The game is 80 minutes long, broken into two 40 minute halves. Unlike American football, the clock almost never stops, which is pretty awesome. You know exactly how long the game is going to last and you don’t have those situations where the last two minutes take a half hour to play. I like that.

Scoring – In rugby, tries are like touchdowns, but I think they’re under-selling themselves. They didn’t just try, they succeeded! Call it a goal, guys. You achieved your goal. [Goals in rugby are like football extra points. Field goals are like field goals.]

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It keeps moving – In rugby you get six “down equivalents,” but there’s no resetting in between and when your turn is over the other team gets right into their six. That sure does keep things moving, but it’s also pretty hard (for me at least) to keep track of who has the ball. The result feels like a cross between American football and soccer and is probably much easier tracked with an aerial view.

Seriously, no pads – Rugby players don’t wear any pads. Not even a helmet (even I know how important helmets are). And they’re huge, which means they’re getting tackled by other huge guys. A lot. Ouch.

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Risky business – The field goal post is right on the goal line and has two supporting posts instead of the American-style one. While I suppose this placement is better for the kickers, it seems a little dangerous to put it right in the field of play and double the chances for impact (as if rugby players don’t get enough concussions).

They’re in it to win it – Rugby players have impressive stamina. The same guys play almost the whole game with very little rotating in or out. And they’re getting body-slammed over and over. Crazy.

Conclusion

I enjoyed rugby way more than I expected. I had the impression that rugby was a super brutal and violent sport, which I wasn’t particularly excited about. It’s not exactly ballet, but it’s really no more violent than football. Thanks to Chris, I felt like I had a pretty good handle on what was happening, saw some cool plays, had a kick land in the row in front of us, and our team won. All in all a fantastic night. Go Manly! 🙂

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