Headingley: Leeds Rhinos v Castleford June 24th, 2012


I was encouraged by the family (Jo, Mark, Ben and Lauren) to join them at Headingley for this game partly on the pretext that it would be an opportunity to see the Olympic torch, up close and personal, of which more later. There may well have been another motive; to try and persuade me that Rugby League is a better game than Rugby Union!

The whole event was great fun I have to say, and while the images may not be great “stand alone” works of art, I think that taken together they give (or at least they evoke in my memory) an impression of a thoroughly joyous event, possibly more laden with individual elements than the average Rhinos game in homage to the torch, but certainly demonstrating Rugby League and its family ethos in a very good light indeed. The individual pictures can speak for themselves, and I haven’t struggled with witty titles; I’ve left them uncropped too, to try and hold the context of the crowd where possible.

Number 20 maybe sums things up a bit – there’s rugby being played (admittedly a pre-kick off youngsters game rather than the main event); there’s a singer top left who was better than some pre-match entertainment I’ve heard; there’s a group being photographed top right – the great thing about them (and they ran an emotional lap of honour) being that they included the husband of the late Jane Tomlinson and were celebrating (and we with them) the culmination of a major fund-raising event; and centre top there’s a woman with a clipboard who doubtless had all these things under control.

The rugby was a great game won comfortably by Rhinos. Am I a convert? In truth only partially. Rugby Union was where I was brought up and though it’s changed a great deal since I played it at a very humble level, it’s still familiar territory. Trying to be somewhat objective though, it seems to me that League is a simplified (and I don’t mean that pejoratively) version of the game which, having been “set free” from scrummaging and lineouts – forward play basically – is very open, fast and flowing, indeed verging on the frenetic. Compare that with a not so good quality game of Union and the latter often seems to be sluggish, dour and mud-bound. Compare it though with a high quality game of Union at either senior club or international level, then the original form of the game is multi-facetted, complex, constantly changing in speed and rhythm and (to my mind at any rate) the more interesting and satisfying for it.

That said, I shall continue to enjoy both codes. One of the good things in the overall history of the game, and I suppose one of the benefits of eventual professionalisation of Union, is that the two codes can respect one another, even to the extent of exchange of players and side-by -side training (hence Keith Senior working with Carnegie this summer with even the possibility of his playing for the Union side) – and long may that mutual respect continue and grow.

The Olympic Torch? What a farce that was! Literally thousands of people gathered after the rugby in the stands of the cricket ground, waiting in the sun for the arrival of the icon and its attendants and in anticipation of its promised lap of the outfield. It finally arrived, was carried through the honour guard, barely in sight of those watching from the stands, and then taken straight out of the stadium again to the disgust of the gathered crowd, who’s shouts and boos weren’t mentioned in the jolly report on Look North! The Yorkshire CCC did however have the good grace to post an apology on their website, blaming a last minute LOCOG decision! Hey hoe!

Any way – a good day, and congratulations to Rhinos who have since worked their way into this year’s Challenge Cup Final

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