What a spiffing time we had watching the Crusaders fillet the Sharks.
Well sorry, we guys didn't have the spiffing time as we were upon the embankment - Southern 22 (actually 23.5 m). The ladies of the party enjoyed the view from the main stand, where I am sure that they had a simply splendid time.
But enough about that, more about the embankment and the goings on around the game. Not my job to comment on the game except to say that it isn't any easier to take these "come from behind wins" when you are watching live at the park.
We headed for the Southern 22 on my advice. The last Test match that I went to, accompanying a somewhat older and wiser (so he seemed at the time) gent, he said that since the Nor-Easterly was blowing, the ball would be kicked into that corner. And on that day it was.
But not this game, oh contraire! most of the play was in the Nor-East corner. But as I said to the guys, we got a better perspective view than we would have at the other end. And they took it quite well, and the bruises are healing nicely.
If you haven't been to a Crusaders Home game, you have really missed out. The pattern is the same each time, but it really works!
Christchurch is just conservative enough to put up with it, and you could guarantee that if anything was missed out, there would be hell to pay! There is a pre-match game, of course. We didn't get there in time to see any of it, but it was Ellesmere Vs. Buller. Not necessarily a big crowd puller in itself, but good "honest as the day is long" type of Rugby, I'm sure.
The park is set up with the castle at the Southern end, and this is where most of the action starts, or is. When we arrived a Band was playing on the Embankment side of the Half-way. They were just finishing their set with Blur's Song 2, which get the crowd going.
As they packed up, it was time for some poor bastard to try to kick a ball through a 1 metre hole in a sign above the goal posts. Not a bad distance at 38 m right out in front, and you do get $1 million for it. For that I would have thought the guy would have got himself a pair of boots with sprigs - I mean you might as well give this thing a real nudge. But no, he had his street shoes on, and he managed to get the ball in the air, although it only traveled 15 m before bouncing. Even if there had been a Southerly, the ball never actually got high enough off the ground to be blown through the "o". I probably wouldn't have done any better... but then it wasn't me out there so in the great Kiwi tradition, I'll bag him as much as I like!
This moment of entertainment over, the Knights on horse-back arrived. They completed several circuits of the field, making a real mess of the touch line (which is really only a problem for the Touch Judges, and the roving TV crew). They stopped at the each 22 along the embankment and then in front of each stand, starting at the Hadlee stand and working around.
It really got the crowd going, lots of yelling. In fact it started a bit of a yelling competition, where each part of the crowd gets to out yell the previous group. About the 3rd circuit I was getting a bit itchy, but I still had a yell on the forth circuit! Couldn't let those stand seated people think that they were having a better time than me!! It's actually quite impressive how much noise one stand can make. Normally when everybody is yelling, i.e. at try time, I'm too busy doing the same to notice how loud the crowd noise actually is. So it was interesting to note that two particular stands make the most noise. They are the two corner stands, at the North East of the field, where apparently lots of sports people, rugby and net-ball clubs etc, sit; and the South East corner which is where the "take a kid to footie" families sit. Both stands were completely full, and made a hua-of-a-lot of noise, the latter necessarily higher pitched!
Then we got to see the Les Mills Dancers. Last time I saw them they were the Chch Casino Dancers, but I guess it isn't just the Beer companies that fight with each other for sponsorship. Of course these young women wear another sponsor's products, with strategically placed symbols across the bust, and upon the right butt cheek... just in the right places to get a joker in trouble for noticing!
DH was spouting forth on how much they had improved, and I was willing to believe him on this point.
Now that no-one was watching, the North's Bread Knight was inflated (in front of the Castle). He looked like he had had a hard night for a while, as he lay prone across his horse. Once he actually got pumped up, he still had a bit of a trouble getting his sword up, so maybe he had been smoking as well!
That was it for the pre-match, the Sharks were welcomed onto the park with just the right mix of booing and polite clapping. The 12 year old who had won the "Canterbury Crusader for a day" contest ran out to place the match ball in the centre of the field. And then the music "Conquest of Paradise" started!
I guess that if we were in Wales, at this point the crowd would join in and welcome the Boys onto the field with hearty voice. This is, of course, what happened as Toddy lead them out, but rather than a sterling chorus in Latin, you were more likely to hear "GO YOU GOOD THINGS!!"
Now that the Sharks were in no doubt who's side the crowd were on, the time was right for the game to begin!
I will mention two groups of people in the embankment.
The first was the crowd to our right who were dead keen to start a Mexican Wave. They tried about 7 times, getting more and more desperate each time (the last two were even started during Crusaders' attacking movements). Each attempt got no further than the Halfway, where a concerted group of Fun Police must have be stationed, because they managed to completely ignore each wave.
The second group were just behind us. One person in particular was a starry eyed Mehrts supporter. She very near deafened me in the right ear. She had just declared her love for Mehrts (at which I saw at least one hardened male rugby supporter cringe!) when she innocently declared to her friends that she was getting hot! I didn't see her friends faces but I can imagine their reaction to this, as they had been shushing her since kick-off! Personally I was happy to suffer an ear-ache if she wanted to yell in support of our great lads.
Half time entertainment, featured the Flying Zucchinis, a high wire act - who performed on the Stand side, so wasn't of much interest to us. After they had finished their death defying act, the Dancers were back to entertain the embankment, so we didn't feel to left out. They came out with their fluffy hand warmers (pom-poms) and helped us while away another 5 minutes of the half-time break.
Just as the teams started to return to the field, the fire works display started. This takes place behind the castle which looks very much like it may burst into flames at any moment. Now I like a big bang as much as the next guy, but I can't understand why the teams have to stand out on the field while it happens. The Crusaders were running cross-over passing drill to keep warm, but it does seem unnecessary to me.
One other half time happening that I will mention, was the ground staff checking the turf around the cricket pitch. They looked like they were replacing divots. Not the best thing to have to do during a Rugby match, but no doubt as good for the grass as the player's ankles.
The second half got underway, and the Boys started to do-it to the Sharks. I began to talk about 4 tries, and JC said I was being greedy. For a bonus point, I think greed is good!
The crowd were happy enough with the win, especially with the Sharks looking ominous in the last 10 minutes. We were happy when Norm Berryman and then Scott Robertson both came over to our corner to thank the crowd. We were even happier when the entire team made a circuit of the ground. I almost forgave them for only getting 3 tries!