I never paid much attention to rugby before I lived in South Africa, where it is inescapable, especially since I was studying at Stellenbosch, which the rugby-est of rugby universities. After becoming a rugby spectator you cannot go back to watching American football, which, with its stopping and starting, suddenly has the feeling of being a demented child’s game. And so, across the Connecticut border to trusty old New Haven, to join some friends and fellow club-members for some Saturday afternoon rugby and revelry, with champagne, whiskey, and home-brewed porter on offer.
Alex tended the burgers while others looked on in dismissive anticipation.
My own car doubled as an impromptu grand-stand. Don’t think all those other vehicles were there for the rugby, though; there was a Yale-Penn football game at the adjacent Yale Bowl.
To the consternation of players and referees, the ball remained suspended in mid-air for several minutes thanks to a rogue electro-gravitational experiment by the boffins at Yale’s Sheffield Scientific School. The massive amount of energy required for this useless stunt, however, caused a power surge that blacked out half of Connecticut, and, once the electricity failed, the ball returned to earth and play resumed in earnest.
The game was actually a good one, despite the disappointing result. It started off pretty badly for the Blue, with a penalty try awarded to Brown, converted, leading to a 7-0 Brown lead. Right after that their number 8 scored another try after a sixty-meter dash down the pitch. Before the game was even twenty minutes old they scored their third try. That probably makes it sound like a rout, but the playing was pretty good all the same, and Yale managed to score from a penalty, making it 19-7 at the half.
Memory of the second half was a bit hazier, as the conversation on the sidelines improved, but the Yalies notched it up to 19-14, and kept frustrating Brown attempts at a try fairly close to the line. Just a few minutes shy of the end, Brown sealed the deal with another try and conversion, finishing the match at 26-14.
While the Ivy League is known for its sporting rivalries, one could have interpolated another traditional conflict into the match. Charlton Field, number 8 for Yale, is an Old Etonian, while Dow Travers, the Brown left-wing whose forty-meter run helped secure his team’s early domination in the match, is an Old Harrovian.
Our Edinburgh circles are sometimes dominated by OHs (who will launch into a drunken chorus of “the tramp of the twenty-two men” at the drop of the hat, despite our pleas for them to cease), so our prejudice tends to favour Harrow in their rivalry with Eton. Still, having been a member or guest of various clubs & societies at Yale and enjoyed the raucous hospitality in New Haven, I’d have to back the Bulldogs even if (perhaps particularly if) Brown fielded a whole team of Old Harrovians.
The Yale 1st XV played a good game, but if its more despondent members are looking for a scapegoat they might want to look to their own university’s admissions office. I suggested to Mr. Travers that he transfer to Yale and bring his running prowess to the Bulldogs, and he revealed that he had actually applied to the university: they waitlisted him.