Eton Manor get into Rugby World Cup fever
PUBLISHED: 13:00 28 September 2015
PA/Press Association Images
New Wilderness clubhouse was buzzing on Saturday for England’s clash against Wales at Twickenham
It was built up as the biggest England against Wales clash for years and Saturday’s World Cup Pool A encounter certainly captured the imagination of those associated with Eton Manor RFC as the New Wilderness clubhouse was packed to the brim.
After a 26-8 loss at Colchester earlier in the day in the National League Three South, the Manor members as well as players and supporters went back to their home in Nutter Lane ahead of the huge clash between the Red Rose and the Red Dragon.
There was no playing down the fixture, a win for Stuart Lancaster’s side and they would have one foot in the knock-out stage of the competition and surely that would be on the case, considering the injury problems for the Welsh.
In the opening stages those in attendance at Eton Manor were roaring every England move on and Owen Farrell’s impressive kicking ensured the mood inside the clubhouse was jovial and buoyant.
Not everybody was watching the big screens with plenty of children outside playing rugby, running around and trying to emulate the stars of Lancaster’s team. They are the future generation and even though it was virtually pitch black outside, the kids were relishing having the ball in hand.
But back inside the atmosphere was bubbling nicely with England on top and playing well and then jubilation and roars that would have been heard on the North Circular as Jonny May crossed over for the first try of the match.
The converted score was met with huge applause and cheers from all the passionate Englishmen in attendance and things were going nicely for Lancaster’s men with ‘come on England’ ringing out inside the New Wilderness.
A few Wales supporters were in the building, though, and not afraid to cheer on the Red Dragon whenever Warren Gatland’s team made a dent on the scoreboard.
At half time it was the majority of people inside the clubhouse who were happy as the hosts led 16-9 going into the break.
That interval also saw various spectators head for the toilets or outside for some fresh air, two things you couldn’t do whilst the tense action from inside Twickenham was on.
Before you knew it the second period was back underway and Farrell, a controversial inclusion, was continuing to show his class with an early penalty that added to the mood inside the clubhouse. England were looking good.
Wales responded with a kick from Dan Biggar but another from Farrell ensured the Eton Manor folk were happy for the time being, but the atmosphere was now starting to get tense.
You couldn’t hear the chants of ‘come on England’ anymore, the mood was changing as the Welsh began to enjoy more possession and get a foothold in the contest. Nerves were flooding into those in attendance so imagine what it was doing to Lancaster’s men!
Another penalty from Biggar added to the tension with the passionate Englishman in the building now looking worried and that buoyant feel to proceedings half an hour early had suddenly disappeared.
A big tackle by Farrell was greeted with huge applause, it had been a while since the Manor fans supporting the hosts had been able to cheer for their side. It was all Wales.
A penalty from the Saracens fly-half puts England 25-18 up, but it did little to ease the nerves and the pressure was building and then it hits boiling point. Lloyd Williams kicks cross-field and Gareth Davies picks the ball up and crosses for a try.
Suddenly the Welsh support inside the clubhouse has doubled and it is them that are jovial and enthusiastic and they only get louder when Biggar’s conversation levels the scores - it is 25-25.
Tension fills the clubhouse now and suddenly you can hear the ITV commentary team, 72 minutes into the match and you can finally hear them. That is how loud those inside the New Wilderness had been, but that has all changed now.
Nobody wants to say a word, no English or Welshman wants to jinx their team and three minutes later the hosts have their head in their hands.
Mike Brown holds onto the ball too long and Biggar sends over what would turn out to be the winning penalty from 49 metres! England fans are speechless, shocked faces are everywhere inside the clubhouse.
The drama continues and the Wales captain Sam Warburton gives away a penalty now which is met by groans from some and England’s skipper Chris Robshaw elects to go for the corner.
His bravery, following in the footsteps of Japan against the South Africans, is wildly backed by the Manor faithful. England can do it, they can win the line-out and get the winning try.
Except they don’t. Now the Wales fans are extremely vocal, England haven’t been able to achieve what the Japanese could do and the seconds are ticking away.
Lancaster’s men have one final throw of the dice, but it fails and Biggar, fittingly, has the ball in hand and thumps it into the stands. The Red Dragon has downed the Red Rose.
The full time whistle is greeted by a lot of cheers from the Wales fans inside the clubhouse, they weren’t cheering so enthusiastically half an hour before, but that doesn’t matter.
For the English, it is a combination of shock and worry. What will happen now for the hosts nation? Regardless, what you can say is that the Rugby World Cup is getting people together and creating a unique experience for those wanting to watch the games.
Eton Manor’s clubhouse was buzzing for much of the match on Saturday and children all around were enjoying being able to run around free and play rugby, even if it was virtually pitch black.
Even though England’s defeat wasn’t part of the script, what this World Cup needs to do is get more people playing and watching rugby. Judging from what I saw on Saturday, that is definitely the case.
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