What made me a Rugby fan

I love sports, almost all of them. It never bores me, watching any sport. I embrace excitement, joy, thrill, competition, battle, heat and whatever element you come across by engaging or watching a sport. Above all I, as a sports fan, cherish and remember moments of sporting brilliances.

I remember Arjuna Ranatunga’s glide for four to win the Wills Cricket World Cup in 1996 against Australia for Sri Lanka at Gadaffi Staduim, Lahore. I remember Zinedine Zidane’s two headers in 1998 FIFA World Cup Finals against Brazil for France at Stade de France, Paris. I remember Jonny Wilkinson’s drop goal with the wrong foot, 30 seconds before the end of the extra time, to win the Rugby World Cup in 2003 against Australia for England at Telstra Stadium, Sydney. I remember Usain Bolt casually jogging the last 10 meters to win the 100 meters final in Olympics in 2008 at Bird’s Nest in Beijing, China.

See, you tend to remember them all, in details most of the times. The list could go on and on.

From the earlier mentioned moments of sporting brilliance, Jonny Wilkinson’s drop goal made me a Rugby fan. I was already a Cricket and a Football fan by then and Rugby was pretty new to me. I had not watched much Rugby by then apart from a couple of matches live, at our College grounds, where our College was a leading Rugby School in the Southern Province and island wide as well, even back then.

It was a Saturday evening and while switching channels on TV and I happened to see the finals of 2003 Rugby World Cup and it was after 15 minutes from kick off. I decided to watch the match.

I had earlier heard of Jonny Wilkinson and his abilities to kick from both feet. Other than him I did not know other players or officials. For the most part I did not understand much other than “Penalties” and “Tries”. I did not even know the positions of the field and the numbers. All I could understand is you should pass the ball backwards and score a try passing the white line stretching from the goal post to either side.

The game was locked at 14-14 at the full time and I thought this might be interesting as both sides matched each others score. The game headed into extra time and soon the score was 17-17 after both sides scored a penalty each to lock the score again. By then I was wondering what would happen if the game was tied after extra time too. The game looked so close and tight.

Then came the sporting moment of brilliance, from Jonny Wilkinson. In the last minute, England began going forward and they were inside Australia’s 22. Jonny Wilkinson dropped back, positioned himself and I heard commentators calling for a drop goal. England’s no.9 made a break through and Martin Johnson, the England captain then carried the ball and they were right. Jonny Wilkinson right footed a drop goal and the ball wobbly-wobbly-wobbly sailed over the posts! England were in the lead just around 20 seconds to go.

I was absolutely gutted. For the most part I supported England and all I expected was a close game and didn’t expect a moment like this at the first place. England managed to hold the ball for the rest of the seconds and won the Web Ellis Cup for the first time.

I realized I had witnessed something special and I was amazed to see such a close encounter and the quality of the play of the match.

Comments of Andre Watson from South Africa, Referee of the match, further proves my point of sporting fans cherish and remember sporting moments of brilliance. He stated this later recalling the match that just before the drop goal, Australians were off side and he delayed the penalty because having seeing Jonny Wilkinson dropping back he had anticipated a drop goal and he wished it to sail through the posts as he had believed that it is not a way of ending a game by giving a penalty, but through brilliance from a player or by a mistake of play and defense.

I was excited and fell in love with the game and watched more Rugby since then and gradually came to know the terminology, rules, players and now I follow Rugby.

As I mentioned earlier our College was a well-known Rugby School. We had a master in charge, who was so passionate of Rugby and he used to go to class by class and select a few boys and accompanied them to the Sports unit for giving further information in order to fill up age group teams. I was selected about 3 times and I somehow escaped and came back to the class. I was already playing Cricket since about 3 years and I did not want to think about another sport and also I was afraid of physicality of the game.

We had one or two or more guys who played Rugby, in each age group Cricket team I played. There were a Scrum-Half, a Winger and a Center in our 1st XI Cricket team and they were so fast, fit and athletic. We used to play Tap Rugby for warming up or at the end of a practice session and I loved it.

Growing up, I got to know there are more to take out of the game of Rugby than excitement, thrill, competition or battle. Though players who play the game are heavy in weight, are extremely disciplined playing the game. They expect every decision of Referee without questioning and respect the oppositions and I think that is a great example for other sports as well.

Growing up and having played a sport by myself, I realized how supreme the drop goal of Jonny Wilkinson is. He defied the pressure, heat of the moment and held his nerve and maintained the composure to score a drop goal which later became an iconic moment of Rugby history and perhaps the Sporting history.

2003 was Jonny Wilkinson’s Rugby World Cup and he became one of my favorite sportsmen. It was exciting and thrilling and I am a Rugby fan since then.

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