THE sceptics who thought the Albion had made a mistake embracing the Rugby World Cup were well and truly silenced over the weekend, with The Amex enjoying a double header of exciting rugby.
I was lucky enough, courtesy of Heineken UK, to watch the Japan versus South Africa game on Saturday and perhaps witnessed the biggest shock in the history of World Cup rugby.
Now in the fifth season of watching football at The Amex, the atmosphere on Saturday was unique.
In the hours and days that followed, I’ve heard a number of people saying that it was a better atmosphere at the rugby than we’ve ever had at the Albion.
That’s a tad harsh. In my opinion, it was a different atmosphere and, to clarify that in the same way, a Worthing Raiders crowd is different to an attendance at Woodside Road.
As we’ve seen with Euro 96, the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics, a landmark sporting event in Britain will create a special atmosphere.
That was clearly the case on Saturday, with the massed ranks of the Japanese and Springboks aligned with an army of neutrals, making a sporting day I will never forget, the sea of colours a particular memory.
One subtle difference from usual was the change in the licensing laws. At the Albion, alcohol is strictly prohibited in sight of the pitch.
For whatever reason, that’s not the case in rugby, hence plastic bottles and glasses allowing spectators to drink in their seats – possibly creating an even more relaxed atmosphere which, in turn, added to the event.
It all came at a premium, with drink prices severely hiked up for the event. But, then again, is there anything wrong with making hay while the sun shines?
As for the game on Saturday, much has been written about it but, as a spectator, quite simply it was thrilling.
Much has been speculated about serious internal off-field issues with the South Africans and perhaps that being a factor in their performance on Saturday. However, that should take nothing away from the Japanese team, who were superb from start to finish.
Aside from the winning try, the moment that typified the whole spirit of the afternoon was a couple of minutes before when the Japanese could have taken a penalty kick and gone for the draw but decided to go for the winning try.
When they finally went over the line. it was one of those great sporting moments that I doubt I will ever forget.
The Japanese fans, some of whom had made a long trip to Sussex to witness rugby history, were extremely emotional but that probably applied to a large number of people present.
The Rugby World Cup has certainly started with a bang, here’s to more of the same in the next month or so.
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