1 July 2012

Watching the Rhinos

I watch Leeds Rhinos playing Rugby League on TV whenever I can and I make special trips to the pub to do so but I had never seen them play live until now.

There is one London fixture each year, away to London Broncos/Harlequins who play at the Stoop in Twickenham, which is all but next door to the international stadium.

Thanks to the river and railways it is a convoluted route there for me by public transport (the best option is to go into Richmond and then out again) so I walked. It is only three miles or so and that takes me much less than an hour.

The Stoop is quite an impressive stadium with covered seating on all sides.

Leeds were assigned to the North Stand (I bought my ticket from the Leeds Rhinos shop) and this is the view from the seat that I chose.

The home fans choose to sit at the side so we faced an empty South Stand.

Rugby League claims to be a family game and this was born out by the mix of fans around me, especially the number of women proudly wearing Leeds colours.

The game itself was a strange affair.

In a game of four quarters Leeds were only top in two of them yet ran out clear winners.

There was no score until the 22nd minute when Broncos went over to take the lead. And they deserved it having had all the possession and all the territory.

The few times that Leeds approached their fans in attack the passing was slow and predictable and they never really threatened to score.

The Broncos' try seemed to wake Leeds up and they score their first try just a few minutes later with a quick series of moves staring in their own half. It was the speed and the urgency that got the try and it got Leeds three more before half-time and they went in 24-6 up.

Perhaps Leeds came out in the second half thinking that the job was done but they had lost their urgency and the second half became a repeat of the first. Broncos scored a try soon after the restart (picking a loose ball up and literally walking over the line with it) and followed that with twenty minutes of pressure in front of the Leeds fans who clapped every defensive tackle enthusiastically.

Then in to the final quarter Leeds shook of their lethargy and ran in six tries to win by an unexpected 58-12 (Sir Kevin actually missed one of the conversions).

I shall be looking at next year's fixtures as soon as they are announced and making sure that the next London date for Leeds goes in to my diary. Until then it is back to watching them in the pub.

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