Fortunately, the National Rugby Championship has provided some ongoing sanity in amongst the Wallaby carnage. Score blow outs aside and the dismal performance of the local team the Sydney Stars notwithstanding, it's been a largely high-spirited and willing competition even if the defence has left a bit to be desired.
So yesterday the Rolling Maul packed up the family and headed out by tram to Leichhardt Oval to watch the Stars take on their country cousins the Charles Sturt University New South Wales Country Eagles. Seriously, that's what the ground announcer called them every time.
This wasn't the first NRC match the Rolling Maul had attended. That match a few weeks ago saw the Stars pretty much thrashed by the Melbourne Rising. While the team's name is nearly as stupid as the 'Stars', subsequent matches have seen everyone thrashed by the Rising as you would expect of a team that is essentially the Melbourne Rebels minus Scott Higginbotham.
So it was a pleasant surprise that given the Stars haven't won a match all season they came out of the blocks firing and shot out to a 16 point lead in no time. But the CSU NSW CE pegged them back, and courtesy of four yellow cards across both teams within about half an hour the overly initialed team were leading at half time.
Now it's a good thing the weather was perfect, the cans of beer were readily available and the quality of Rugby on show was of a high standard, because the half-time entertainment was non-existent. The earlier match of the NRC the Maul attended featured a classic catch the ball competition at half time. How hard is it to arrange a game of kids sevens or a running race?
Anyway, the match continued, the lead see-sawed. the defence was at times brutal, tries were spectacular, and with 10 minutes to go an upset was on the cards. But then devastation. With the Stars up by 2 and five minutes to play, a Stars handling error saw the Rising go over in the corner. Get the conversion and the Stars would need a try just to draw the game. The kicker lined up the conversion. What to do?
And then some wag in the crowd came to the rescue. As the crowd hushed for the kick a cry was heard,
"The wind's going from left to right. Or maybe right to left. Actually, I'm really not sure"Guffaws from the crowd. The kicker struck the ball but it sailed well to the right of the posts and the Stars were still in the game. Then from the crowd another cry,
"I told ya."This time full-on laughs from all round and the filthiest look from the kicker as he scanned the crowd for his verbal assailant.
Alas, despite plenty of chances, the Stars couldn't capitalise and they lost by 3 points.
But the best thing of all. That wag in the crowd was the Rolling Maul. A career highlight if ever there was one.