Monday, May 18, 2009

Manly 28 at Northern Suburbs 31 (Shute Shield) - May 9, 2009

I arrived in Sydney early Saturday morning and after checking in, made my way to the North Sydney Oval to watch a Shute Shield matchup between undefeated Manly and the Northern Suburbs. The Shute Shield is a Sydney-area rugby union competition that features younger players, some of whom go on to play for the Wallabies, Australia's national team. I suspect it is similar to Class A baseball, in that few players from this level move on to the top ranks. The quality of play is very good; I was impressed with the skill shown by both teams, although there were a few missed tackles.

I was joined by two former colleagues, Damien and Mark, and we spent the time catching up and having a few drinks, so the game was not given full attention. It was a good battle though, with the Northern Suburbs enjoying an upset victory 31-28, with the winning points coming on a drop goal about 10 minutes from time. Manly did make it close at the end, but they couldn't get that final try (the picture above shows Manly at the goal line) and suffered their first loss of the season.

There were few spectators here, which allowed for wandering around to take pictures. The ground is in good shape, with several different seating areas, called stands, each named after a famous athlete. The O'Reilly stand is pictured above, named after Bill O'Reilly, an Australian cricketer (not the Fox News loudmouth). There is a bar on premises, and drink prices are not inflated as they are at other venues. Food options were simple, with pies and sandwiches about all you could get. After the game, we were allowed to walk onto the field, it is quite hard and I didn't envy the players having to be tackled on this surface for 80 minutes.

From the middle of the field after the game

Scrum early in the first half

No trouble finding the bar

It was a fun afternoon watching my first live rugby union game. It's tough to spot the penalties, especially when sitting at field level, so I'll have to study up on the game before the World Junior Tournament next month.

Later in the week, I saw a rugby league game in Brisbane and will update you on that next time. For now, here's a description of the differences between rugby union and rugby league.



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