In May 1973 when I was working in Toulouse, I took it into my head to go to the (French) Rugby League Championship Final. I was curious.
I had never seen a live game before because on our side of the Channel it was only played in the north of England. The French final was at the Stadium Municipal in Toulouse, so it was a short walk from home in the St Cyprien neighbourhood. Toulouse Olympique XIII was one of the finalists.
TO XIII won that day.
Fast forward to September 2021 and TO XIII were top of the (English) Championship – the 2nd Division of the English game – and playing their last league game of the season at 10th placed Newcastle Thunder. I decided to go.
Auld Alliance… La Vieille Alliance… An Seann-chaidreachas… L’Ancian Aliança… etc.
It turned out to be Men v Boys, and TO XIII hammered Newcastle 82-12. Sometimes such a one sided game can be tedious, but TO XIII produced a great display of power combined with skill. I had to admire it.
After they game they were presented with the league trophy to take home on the plane. Ironically, Dragons Catalans from Perpignan have won the equivalent Super League trophy. Must be a Brexit thing.
They have their championship playoff semi-final at home to Batley Bulldogs on 2 October, and I would love to go, but between the testing requirements and vaccine certification stuff it would be a long trip just for a weekend.
The Newcastle game was my first live sporting event since March 2020, so it was a bit of a milestone. The crowd was sparse so health was never a concern.
It was a brief overnight visit for me, and I drove there (via Edinburgh and Jedburgh) rather than risk 2 hours on a train full of mask-less Covidiots – masks are required on trains in Scotland but not in England and the train operators have washed their hands of any responsibility for their passengers’ safety by declining to enforce the law.
It does puzzle me. How can 2 hours on a busy train be safer than 2 hours on a busy plane?
ⓒ iain taylor 2021