Bunnies in Britain (Part V): A Preseason Trifecta, Complete!

The crowd at Langtree Park is gonna be big tonight!

The crowd at Langtree Park is gonna be big tonight!

I passed through the gates of Langtree Park through a giant turnstile door that looked like something out of a New York City subway station.  On the other side, bright florescent lights and rivers of beer.  It had finally happened: my first sporting match in Europe.  But I wasn’t here to see the Red Devils at Old Trafford or a tennis match at Wimbledon.  I was here for something much more, well, entertaining!  I was here for rugby.  Sorry, Bunnies, I meant, rugby LEAGUE!  This was the 2015 World Club Series match up between my South Sydney Rabbitohs of the NRL and the St. Helens Saints of the European Super League.  You could feel the electricity in the air!

For those unfamiliar with this preseason bout, The World Club Series is an annual rugby league football competition played between the champion clubs of the Australasian National Rugby League and the European Super League and two invited clubs from each competition, therefore six teams in total.  The competition is an expanded form of the World Club Challenge which, until 2014, was a single match played at the beginning of each year between the two champions of each league.  The two champions still compete in a single match for the World Club Championship trophy as in previous years, with the other four teams competing in, what are essentially, exhibition games.  The first such match was played in 1976 but did not become a regular fixture until the late 1980’s.  The World Club Series championship match pits the premiers of the National Rugby League and Super League; to date, only English and Australian sides have competed in and won the World Club Challenge.

2015 World Club Series Final Teams
St Helens RLFC                                                Positions                          South Sydney Rabbitohs
Jonny Lomax                                                      Fullback                                                      Greg Inglis (c)
Tommy Makinson                                          Winger                                                    Alex Johnston
Mark Percival                                                     Centre                                                        Dylan Walker
Jordan Turner                                                      Centre                                                  Bryson Goodwin
Adam Swift                                                      Winger                                                      Joel Reddy
Travis Burns                                                         Five-eighth                                                            Luke Keary
Jon Wilkin (c)                                                                  Halfback                                                            Adam Reynolds
Kyle Amor                                                                           Prop                                                             George Burgess
James Roby                                                             Hooker                                                            Issac Luke
Mose Masoe                                                              Prop                                                           David Tyrrell
Joe Greenwood                                                  Second Row                                            Glenn Stewart
Atelea Vea                                                                   Second Row                                                     John Sutton
Mark Flanagan                                                  Lock                                                          Ben Lowe
Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook                                  Interchange                                                               Jason Clark
Alex Walmsley                                                           Interchange                                                  Chris McQueen
Luke Thompson                                                            Interchange                                                            Tom Burgess
Andre Savelio                                                                 Interchange                                                    Chris Grevsmuhl
Keiron Cunningham                                                        Coach                                                             Michael Maguire

Before I could find my seat, I was scrambling to find my ticket stub.  How do you like that?!  Not twenty seconds in Langtree Park, and I couldn’t even find my stub!  In a moment of panic, I retraced my steps and kept my eyes glued to the ground in the hopes that it would appear as if it might have fallen out of my pocket.  Sure enough, it was just a few feet from the turnstile!  With my stub safely returned to my pocket, I marched towards my seat area.  I knew this facility wouldn’t be as big as ANZ Stadium, much less any NFL stadium in America.  Still, the close confines meant the fans would be close to the action on the field, as the same can be said for the thousands of fans who would pack this place up for tonight!

I thought I was getting a seat for the game, but instead, my section was all standing room!  Located just behind the try line in the end zone, an area referred to as the east terrace, I was a red and green rabbit awash in a sea of red and white Saints fans.  I didn’t see The Burrow anywhere near me, nor anyone I recognized from Sydney.  I thought I would be the only Souths fan, let alone the ONLY Souths fan from New York in the section.  I was relieved to see about eight or nine other Souths fans near me which gave me a sense of security; I figured if a riot broke out in my section, I’d be a bit safe.

With a rousing rendition of “Rule Britannia” sung by the members of an all-male choir, the starting line-ups announced, and a fiery entrance by both teams, the match was underway.  From the east terrace of the stadium, I watched the opening kick sail through the air, courtesy of Greg Inglis.  The first tackle on the Saints happened at around the 10 m line.  The second tackle had Greg Inglis and Glenn Stewart practically mashing a Saints player into submission.  A lucky moment came when on fifth tackle, a Saints player tried to punt the ball, but the kick bounced off of John Sutton and it landed outside midfield.  A turnover in our favor that resulted in the Bunnies starting their first drive from the 50 m line.  Now, it was South Sydney’s turn on offense.  Sutton throws it to George Burgess who throws himself into a brutal tackle just a few meters from midfield.  George Burgess then hands it off to Isaac Luke, who hands it to Glenn Stewart, who passes it to Greg Inglis who gets taken down on third tackle just inside the 30 m line.  Inglis gets up, hands it off to Isaac Luke, who throws it to Adam Reynolds, who attempts to kick the ball just 25 meters from the try line.  Inglis tries to run for it, but trips over a Saints player and slides into the end zone like a baseball player stealing first.  In a split second, Glenn Stewart narrowly dives on the ball and puts barely enough pressure on it to qualify it for a try.  From where I was standing, I didn’t see the ball, but I did see what looked like, at least I hoped it was, a try by Stewart.  One video ref check later, and it was confirmed: TRY!  Bunnies score the first try of the game and boy was it a close one!  Little did I know it was the start of an amazing night of footy!

And the Rabbitohs take the field at Langtree!

And the Rabbitohs take the field at Langtree!

 

"Kick it high, Reynolds!"

“Kick it high, Reynolds!”

While the red and green faithful relished the close try by Stewart, the Saints sang with a crushing force.  Unsurprisingly, they chose “Oh, When the Saints Go Marching In” as their theme song.  The singing I didn’t mind, but I could not ignore just how loud it was!  Who knew around 200 fans standing behind me could sound like 20,000?  These red and white supporters brought their pipes with them and they had them cranked all the way to 11!  But their singing subsided with the Rabbitohs’ first try, through newcomer Glenn Stewart.  Follow that up by a beautiful converted kick by Adam Reynolds, and it would only be the start of a long night for the Saints.  A long and painful night, that is!

"Oh, When the Saints Come Marching In!"

“Oh, When the Saints Come Marching In!”

In between seeing Souths do what they do best, I attempted to use my American Rabbitohs charm to woo the Saints fans.  I dropped by coat to reveal my red and green Bunnies cape.  I think I may have been the most well-dressed bunny in attendance, just shy of a few Souths fans who came with painted faces.  In front of me, I saw a couple of blokes who were alternating between drinking and shouting at the field.  I told one of them that I was from New York and I was here to support South Sydney.  Just like my night at the Crown Hotel in Liverpool, they just couldn’t believe their eyes or ears.  An American at a footy match who is supporting an Australian team?!  Right away, the main bloke, whose name was Chris, began calling to his friends about his new discovery.

A Bunny among Saints!

A Bunny among Saints!

“Hey, guys!”, he said in a slightly drunken tone.  “This guy here’s from New York!  This Souths fan here’s an American!  He’s alright!  He came all the way for this!”, Chris announced.  From the sound of his voice, I could tell this is one fan who was s**tfaced!  But Chris wasn’t done yet!  This friend of his, this rather portly gent with a “cue ball” for a cranium approached me and proceeded to either hug me or give me a sloppy handshake.  Either way, I felt quite honored among this crowd!  Chris went on to say that he was from Cumbria, England’s northernmost county, and said that I am more than welcome there!  Even with my red and green duds on, this St. Helens crowd, at least a small contingency in my section, made me feel more than welcome!

A "saintly" rabbit!

A “saintly” rabbit!

For the rest of the night, it was Bunnies, Bunnies, and Bunnies!  Iron clad defense, Greg Inglis’ try in the first half, Adam Reynolds’ kicks (he was 5 for 7 that night), Stewart’s close call first try, and the unstoppable Burgess Brothers were just a few factors that gave South Sydney an astonishing 39-0 victory over St. Helens, resulting in the Rabbitohs’ first ever World Club Championship!

If our 2015 pre-season playing schedule has taught me anything, it’s this; I think we’re gonna be alright!  We have plenty to look forward to.   All in all, my trip to Liverpool and St. Helens was worth every second!  Within the ocean of screams from St. Helens’ fans, a lone Rabbitohs from New York City cried happily as his beloved South Sydney Rabbitohs completed an a well-earned pre-season trifecta.  I made my way across the bridge and back to the bus station where I happily rode back to Liverpool and celebrated at the Cavern Club.  Well, a recreation of the now-defunct one that The Beatles once played in.  I’d say this trip to Liverpool and St. Helens was, ahem, “Jolly Good, Mate!”

CHEERIO!

About admin

I am a graduate of Stony Brook University, and I have a degree in History. I am an avid traveler, with an extensive knowledge of geography, a passion for photography, and a knowledge of animals too. I enjoy pop music of the 1980's, fine dining, movies, baseball, basketball, and rugby.
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2 Responses to Bunnies in Britain (Part V): A Preseason Trifecta, Complete!

  1. Alisoun Brewster says:

    Sounds like you had a wonderful time Jared–so fun to read! Go Rabbitohs!!!

  2. Patricia Coats says:

    great read jared…made it (almost) as if i were there! :) thanks so much for your stories… :) GO THE BUNNIES!

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