When the sports editor asked me for a piece on what proved an enthralling upset yesterday I felt both inadequate and nervous. Rugby is not a sport I follow but the sports editor said that I know the Brighton sporting scene and could do a vox pop post.
I have bored readers before on what a great sporting city Brighton is. For a city of just over 200,000 we have a cricket side thst won the County Championsnip three times in the noughties, the best supported team in the Championship and in the past Steve Ovett and the formidable Brighton Tigers. Joe Marler and Joe Launchbury are Brighton-born but we do not have much of a rugby team nor is it a hub of the sport like the West Country. Nonetheless we have a fine stadium and we were delighted to host two World Cup games both sold out. And here is another confession: I did somehow manage to acquire two tickets which I gave to my grandchildren who follow the game. When I wanted a couple more, every sporting contact drew a blank.
Brighton is a gossipy place too. I dropped in on my tailor at the Lanes to be fitted for a sports jacket and the owner of the shop Mark Jenkins is a real rugger enthusiast. He knew all the low down. The South Africans and Japanese teams are staying at the Metropole Hilton and was I going to the Amex? I had to correct him that because of MasterCard the stadium has been renamed the Brighton Community stadium with Amex signage blacked out. The Samoans have made a popular impression here, out and about in the town, drinking their lattes in the cool cafes of the North Laines and speaking well on social media of Brighton’s vibe. Brighton is a happy, welcoming place and I know when the opposition cricketers come over to the Players Club how much they enjoy ther time here. Metros from the big cities may have difficulty in appreciating how much staging these two games means to Brighton. The big screen on the beach at Madeira Avenue is showing both games and Brightonians don’t need much excuse to revel. It’s a bit like being a town awarded a stage in the Tour de France.
I settled down on the balcony in the warm sun to follow the Albion at Woves. It ended 0-0 but we are still atop the Championship with a cushion. Alan Tanner called bemused that Fulham could concede 3 aerial goals to a team that managed 7 in all so far this season and were winless in 7 games.
I started to watch the game with the expectation that the bruising South African juggernaut pack would steamroll the men from the East. It was not to be and I’m pleased to learn I was not the only one visibly moved by the courage of the Japanese especially going for broke in the final minutes when a draw would be highly creditable. I rather wished I was there but the crowd shots of elderly Japanese in tears only added to the theatre of the occasion. It as a day that will long be remembered and now part of Brighton’s rich sporting history.