Saturday, June 8, 2013

USA Rugby vs Ireland: Eagles and IRFU Give Fans a Game to Remember

There was no tournament being played in Houston Saturday night. Qualifying for the World Cup was not on the line either. When the 30 rugby players from the United States and Ireland took the field with over 20,000 fans watching there was nothing tangible being played for.

There was something better. Pride. Bragging rights. And most of all--like any good rugger will tell you--

Simply because Saturday's a rugby day!

Getting the chance to watch one of the premier rugby teams in the world was a chance that not many rugby players and fans in the United States wanted to pass up. IRFU is currently ranked No. 9 in the world--so yeah, these guys are good.

The Eagles of the U.S. team are not slackers by any means ranked at No. 16, but the U.S has never defeated Ireland making the day's game mean that much more should they be able to pull out a win.

Alas, it was not yet time for the Eagles to get that elusive first win against IRFU, but they did succeed in giving them all they could handle holding them out of the try zone for the duration of the match. However, Ireland held the Eagles out as well, and in the end made one more penalty kick to win the game 15-12.

The general perception (according to Twitter) is that the Eagles were in rare form playing with an intensity and passion not often seen. The talent that is on the IRFU squad was not going to be denied.

If you want a pretty in-depth analysis go here.

Overall the response has been positive over social media channels on both sides of the pond.

Understandable in the U.S. since fans are not accustomed to seeing their team hang with one of the top tier squads like they did. IRFU fans have to be happy with a win, but I would not be surprised if they know how important matches like this are to growing the game within the United States.

It certainly helps when one of the most popular athletes in the NFL, Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt, gets inspired watching the game:

Of course, as with anything, there are haters online; people that want to be overly critical of the ref, call the U.S. all sorts of names, and blame the close contest on youth and inexperience of some of the IRFU players (I saw one guy complain about how the British Lions and some other team have taken all the best players from the Irish squad).

To those guys I have this to say--I get where you are coming from. Like Americans with their football teams, you live, eat, poop, breath, sleep your favorite team. You hate to see what you perceive as a lackluster effort, a poor ref, or a team that you think doesn't belong on the pitch with yours hold its own.

We feel the same way when it comes to our favorite college football and NFL teams. The intensity of our devotion can get pretty ugly sometimes when we let our passion and devotion for our squads take over.

However, when it comes to rugby--it's a little like being that guy with the great personality and wicked funny sense of humor finally getting the hot chick.

Like that guy, rugby in the U.S. just needs a chance to gain a following and a solid foothold for it to really take off. Rugby is a game that most people have heard of, but know nothing about--much like the hot chick not knowing the smart, funny guy exists.

But just like when the babe does realize how great the smart,funny guy is she falls in love and they both live happily ever after.

That is what games like this does for rugby in the United States; it gives people a chance to meet the game, realize how great it is, and then fall in love with it.

So relax haters. We are just trying to catch up with the rest of you so go shoot a boot, sing a song about the Marrying Kind or Working in Chicago; talk about why Jesus Can't Play Rugby; explore your dark side with the S&M Man; or show Yogi Bear some love after a boat race.

And when all is said and done there will be one universal question that can be asked and answered by all:

Is everybody happy?

[Feel free to comment if you know the answer...]

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