Sunday, 7 February 2010

Match Report

Scotland 9 - 18 France

Why can't they move The Six Nations to a warmer month?

It's not as if half the participants hail from Australia or New Zealand, we all live right here. And even those of us who don't, those poor unfortunates compelled to domicile the vicinity of the Mediterranean Sea, surely they must feel it even more than we.

How many more years must we sit perched on that bleak exposure of scaffold, that aerofoil to the cold east winds and drizzle, sneezing and dripping into our pies and chips on drab Scottish days? Watching those big cheerful screens, showing the bright sunny lies being transmitted back, courtesy of big media's photomultipliers, to all those who had the good sense to stay indoors?

You can probably gather much from that paragraph. For one thing, we didn't win. Well actually, the headline already kind of clinched that. Also, my attendance was reluctant, virtually all of the enthusiasm for the trip being initially my wife's. Finally, you might just have discerned, from my rueful sobs against the effects of the weather, that the pies were actually quite good...

It was a fine trip, really. We set out and arrived very early, to get parking near the stadium. Then we had plenty of time to wander around, see and hear what was going on, buy programs, take photos, annoy the stewards to let us in early (they didn't), and eat and drink a junk breakfast. The Famous Grouse offered a free beanie to anyone buying a "Ginger Grouse", which sadly turned out not to be Scots-Thai fusion cuisine, but merely a whisky and ginger beer. Well, I say merely. Of course Linda got the beanie.

We managed to find our seats. And then a wee while later, when their rightful owners appeared on the scene, asking awkward questions, we managed to find some more.

Kick-off! Minutes later there's a cloud of blue jerseys thundering down past the far 22, and I'm jumping up, shouting "Come on Scotland!" and cheering like a bampot. Which I am; for immediately afterwards, when a French injury sub (Vincent Clerc for Aurelien Rougerie) is announced, I suddenly grasp that those blue jerseys are in fact the visitors, and we are playing in white.

Quick recalibration of the specs and we're back in business. Chris Paterson has put us ahead with an early penalty, and we begin to believe the good reports we've heard about this team - against our better judgement, and that of history, which says we can only win when underdogs. We did beat the French here by 20-16, four years ago.

But sure enough, the first cheese-eating surrender-monkey try soon followed, thanks to Mathieu Bastareaud, fresh from his June 2009 stint in Australia and New Zealand, where he claimed that four or five men had attacked him from behind, when in fact security camera footage helped establish that he'd come back drunk after 5:20 am and sustained facial injuries, perhaps by tripping over a table in his hotel room as he later claimed.

Morgan Parra failed to convert, but landed a penalty, then Paterson did likewise. 6-8 wasn't looking too bad. Then, the internationally disgraced pork pie salesman Bastareaud reeled and staggered and fell all over our try line once again. Or could he have been pushed over by some team mates, who then agreed to cover the whole thing up?

Parra converted this time (6-15) and Scottish spirits took a dip. Almost literally - as Linda, trying to control her camera and keep hold of her program, forgot to use her third hand to keep her lager steady. It fell to the ground with a most unlikely clunk, then failed completely to wobble or fall over like an unreliable French centre, but elected instead to spit a frothy plume of Carling straight up into the air, then back down on top of everyone in the vicinity.

And when she picked it up, true to her own nature, the glass was still half full!

You're right, I've lost all interest in the game at this point. There's more substitutions going on than anything else, and it all winds up shortly afterwards with a couple of additional penalties, one apiece. We're soon wandering off into the cool Edinburgh night, munching on a steak baguette, shaking hands with French strangers in funny hats, and laughing at the drunken bampots in the hospitality suites.

I do hope that you have found my account completely unbiased.

All photos copyright © 2010 by Linda & John Kerr.

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