Our Blog - First Rugby Match
Rugby .... seen it on TV ... never been to a match until yesterday. There is a small story behind the tickets. We knew that Rugby is popular here .. there are 2 teams here (Rugby Union team Stade Toulousain, and Rugby League team Toulouse Olympique). When we moved here, one of the first things I did was to join a set of private Facebook groups ... almost anything with Toulouse in the name that seemed to be English-speaking. There is one for buying/selling items that expats use when arriving and leaving on assignments, one for meetup's for English/French speaking groups, a couple of Expat groups, etc. So one day, I'm going through one of the Facebook groups and see a post that says that they are giving FREE tickets to a game between Toulouse Olympique and Sheffield (England). Seems the team here is undefeated at home and they wanted to get as many people in the stands for this game to keep it that way.
Toulouse Olympique is a professional team within Rugby League, which is slightly different from Rugby Union. There also seems to be different "leagues" and "tiers". Originally founded in 1937, they were part of the French Rugby League Federation and were 6-time champions in that federation. They attempted to join the Super League (another league/tier) but were denied. It seems like they played in the Championship tier for 2 years and then returned to the Elite One tier in 2011. They currently play in the Kingstone Press Rugby League the Championship tier of that group. From my view, you could tell this was a "minor league" team ... they played in a small stadium that was fairly basic (from the seats, etc). This was a Saturday, and the stands were only about 1/3 full (compared to say ... the view that I am getting today on TV of a Rugby match where it is a big stadium and mostly full).
And for those who have no idea about Rugby ... I'm there with you! I have done a lot of googling lately on it, and so I'll try to put MY VIEW of a comparison of Rugby to American Football (and I'm sure my friend Alasdair can explain where I've gone awry). In general, they are fairly similar ... you want to move the ball down the field to your end and get over the goal line, which scores points. If you do that, you can get extra points by kicking a goal. Rugby is like ... contact football without padding :-) From the stands, you can actually HEAR the contact between players! Some of the differences that I could actually see was ... football seems to stop alot more ... every time the ball is down, there is a block of time where the team talks about the next play, resets, etc. In rugby, the player/ball is down and then it gets kicked back to teammates that then start again .. no break in play really. Each time the player/ball is "down" counts as a tackle and you basically have 6 tackles before you turn the ball over to the other team, regardless of how far down the field you've gotten (or not gotten). You can see where once a team has 5 tackles, sometimes the next play, the team actually kicks the ball (not a place kick, but instead of running, the guy with the ball just kicks it). The thought is to either get it as far down as possible so the other team has a long way to go (if they get the ball), or perhaps your teammate can run down the field and actually get the ball when it comes down and you retain control. Now ... after that .. I'm totally confused. I was watching and people where kicking when I didn't understand why ... a team scored and then they got the ball back instead of it going to the other team ... confusion!!!
Anyway ... so ... they had a couple snack areas but they didn't take money. You had to buy these "jetons" (tokens, chips) and use them. Each thing you buy had a price in jetons (2 for a coke, 1 for a bag of potato chips, 2 for M&Ms, etc). But you also can only buy them in groups of 5. Which then causes you a problem if you want 2 cokes and a bag of M&Ms ... which is 6 jetons. So my problem was ... I bought 5 and then got a coke (2 jetons). After halftime, I went to get something else ... I had 3 left. 2 for a coke, left 1. The only thing for 1 was a bag of chips, and the snack bar on our side didn't have anymore. We went to the other side and they had just 1 bag left. If they would have been out, then I'm in trouble ... I either "lose" a jeton (cuz I don't know that I will go to another rugby game here), or I buy 5 more and find something else, or drink a 3 jeton beer instead of a 2 jeton coke. Thankfully .... I got the LAST bag of potato chips! The jetons acdually say "Blagnac Rugby" which is the field/stadium, which is the Stade Ernest Argelès in the town of Blagnac.
We got to the stadium with public transportation, since we are still car-less here in Toulouse. It was pretty simple, really. We were actually over near the Garonne River doing something, and so we caught one bus for a few stops, then waited about 5 minutes and caught another one. As we got off the bus, there was a guy ahead of us that we asked (in French) if he was going to the stadium for the Rugby game and he said (back in a mix of French and English) that he was and to follow him, it wasn't far .. and when we need to catch the bus back to town, we had to go over to the other corner. Quite helpful! It was actually even easier to get home, since we didn't even have to change buses as the 70 bus came right over to Jeanne d'Arc where we live!. We were about to pick up our tickets (one shown below) and enter.
We grabbed a few pictures as we came in and walked around the field. They have stands on both sides (we were seated on the East side, which seemed to be the SUNNY side!!) It looks very much like a high school football stadium (except in Texas, where they take high school football VERY seriously and their high-school stadiums look more like college stadiums!).
Here is the Sheffield team warming up prior to the game (dressed in all orange, although during the warmups, they had blue t-shirts on). This also gives a good view of the seats ... the blue seats are full plastic seats including a back, while the others just have the bottom part with really no back (which is where we were).
Here the game is about to start ... and it really did seem like a high-school football game! There were cheerleaders lined up and you can also see a few kids holding a banner for the Toulouse Olympique team, along with the mascot (I guess it is an ancient roman olympic game athlete?) Then the players come out and walk/run through the 2 lines of the cheerleaders.
Then I grabbed a few pictures during the game, although most of the time I was just watching and attempting to figure out the rules.
Then when the home team scores a "try" (football terminology = touchdown), the cheerleaders would come out and split into 2 groups, one on each side of the field for the stands. Then they would do a little toss, normally during the extra point kick.
One interesting thing here on the extra point ... so there is a kicker who kicks the ball through the uprights. The main differences here are that the ball is kicked from a plastic kicking tee, instead of being held (like in football) and the none of the other players are lined up (so you can't block). In this picture, you can see the ball, heading towards the uprights after being kicked, and the Sheffield players just milling around (not lined up and attempting to block like they would be in american football).
So ... that was it for the pictures! Successful day with the Toulousains getting their 10th victory of the season, and remaining undefeated at home, beating Sheffield 45-20.
We probably will go to more Rugby matches, although I'll really have to get our friend Alasdair to explain it all to us!!