Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Rugby season opener

While watching the sports channel the other night I saw an ad for the Russian Rugby Championship. I had previously wanted to get to a game, but the stadium looked hard to get to. Last night's game was at the Lokomotiv Stadium downtown. The stadium has a capacity of 4000 and sits on one side of the field. Going to a Rugby game is the closest I will get to Aussie Rules in Russia.

The game was scheduled to start at 18:30, but the marching band were still strutting their stuff at 18:35.

The weather has been warm and in the 20s for over a week now. But it turned cool yesterday, 17 degrees with patches of rain. Some die hard rugby fans turned out in the rain. There were 1300 at the match.

The two teams were lined up by 18:40. The team on the left is Yenisey (a Krasnoyarsk based team). They have just turned professional this year. It's a bit of an anomaly because most of the other teams are not professional. The team on the right is Krasny Yar (also a Krasnoyarsk based team). Krasny Yar won nearly every championship in the 90s, but they are still an amateur team. There are 6 teams in the Premier Rugby League in Siberia (4 of them are from Krasnoyarsk), and a further 8 in European Russia. After the national anthem, the game got underway at about 18:45.

I asked some people in the crowd who the stronger team were. Apparently Yenisey. So in true Aussie form I decided to barrack for the underdog Krasny Yar. I had no idea just how much an underdog they were. From very early on Yenisey dominated the play. I cheered away for Krasny Yar, and to my amusement the majority of people were supporting Yenisey. There was a group at the back cheering for Krasny Yar though. I had fun stirring the group of kids in front of me that insisted Yenisey are the team to go for. (It seems cheering for the under dog is not the Russian thing to do.)

Yenisey just seemed to move a lot faster than Krasny Yar did, and so it seemed as if they had more players on the field. They were able to cover the gaps better.

By half time the score was 24-0 in Yenisey's favour. Krasny Yar barely even looked like scoring, although they were trying very hard to stop Yenisey.

The Yenisey players were also a lot bigger. It seems that turning professional, they have been able to take all of the best players, at least the best from Krasnoyarsk anyway.

Our American friends were intrigued by the differences to American Football. I couldn't explain all of the rule differences, just the major ones, as I don't know the game of Rugby well enough.

Yenisey are about to score another try. The style of play of both sides almost completely ignored shots on field goals. Even at 24-0 when Krasny Yar could have taken an easy shot on goal, they decided to push forward for a try and failed to score. In the end Krasny Yar did score. The final score was 33-5 in Yenisey's favour. Last week Krasny Yar defeated Sibir 61-8, so I don't think that this will be a very competitive season. Sibir and Siberian Federal University may be more well matched but a long way behind the competition. There simply aren't enough teams for another division. But perhaps some more sponsors will get on board and all of the teams can turn professional, if so maybe the talent will be spread around more evenly.

In Aussie Rules we feel cheer leaders are unnecessary, but Abigail seemed to enjoy them, when the ball was at the other end of the field. If the ball came close Abigail would get excited and comment on kicks etc.

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