A month ago, not even the offer of free tickets to the Rugby World Cup final could have enticed me to show any interest in the game, but last Saturday night I went one further than simply yelling at the television.

It was minutes from the final whistle during Ireland's match against Australia and I was, literally, on the edge of my seat.

Many things about rugby may still be unclear to me, but there was no doubt which team I was supporting in this clash, so you can imagine the panic which gripped me when it looked as if the Wallabies were about to score the first try of the game.

"Come on Ireland!" I muttered. "It's not hard, just get the ball and run the other way..."


And blow me down if that's not exactly what Tommy Bowe did.

Ecstatic doesn't begin to describe how I felt as he stormed across the field. Time seemed to slow down and the very pitch got larger as Bowe made his dash for victory, only to be brought down by a tackle agonisingly close to the try line.

It didn't matter though. The clock was ticking down and Australia's best opportunity to level the score had been foiled.

In a moment of clarity I realised why the field had suddenly appeared so magnified. I was standing up and had advanced considerably on the TV, scaring the cat from his cosy spot in front of the heater as I went.

I would've felt slightly ashamed about this bizarre behaviour, had my three companions not also been off the couch, yelling in unison with me.

And so another of my long-held views about rugby - that the players aren't aware when you're yelling and gesturing at the goggle box - bit the dust.

Thanks for obliging Mr Bowe - though you may have created a monster.

Buoyed by the exhilaration of that unexpected upset and my recently-acquired understanding of rucking etiquette (thanks to Shifty and Fritz, who responded to last week's blog), I felt quietly confident as I settled down to watch the Italy v Russia game.


I would, I resolved, let my husband watch this one in peace.

Well, that was the plan... how was I to know the unthinkable was about to happen?

Late in the first half, referee Wayne Barnes blew his whistle. The scrum looked a bit of a mess, even to my untrained eye, so that didn't entirely surprise me. What came next did.

"Penalty try," the graphics strip across the top of the screen read.

"The ref. can award a penalty try?" I asked my husband, incredulous.


Worse, I learnt, a penalty try is assumed to have been made right under the goal posts, meaning a conversion is a near certainty.

Now, I'm sure Russia's 'repeated scrum infractions' warranted Barnes' call against them, but I couldn't help feeling a wee bit sorry for the Bears. It's one thing to be penalised three points, but when seven are potentially on the line, well, that's a whole other ball game.

This incident did serve to enlighten me about one thing though - the power a referee has.

I'd always naively thought rugby fans were being a bit precious when they blamed losses on refereeing decisions, now I'm not so sure.

With cameras capturing just about every angle of a game, genuine injustices must be few and far between, but I understand now how the fairness - or otherwise - of referees' calls can make for heated workplace discussions long after the players have left the field.

And speaking of controversy, I'd like to add my two cents' worth on the news this morning that some members of the Rugby World Cup anthem choirs won't now get tickets to the games they're singing at.

I'm probably a bit biased on this matter as a number of my friends are members of these choirs, but I still think it's a shame they won't be able to stay and watch the games.

Of course it's an honour to be able to sing the anthems at such an event, but many of the choristers are travelling considerable distances at their own cost in order to be able to take part.

One friend - a big rugby fan - is flying all the way from Dunedin to sing at the final and points out it will be virtually impossible to get to a screen before kick off after being chaperoned from the field.

New Zealand's prowess on the rugby field is well documented but it's perhaps less well known that our choirs also have an impressive record when it comes to competing on the international stage. So it's been fantastic to see the coming together of these two great Kiwi traditions and to hear the anthems performed so well prior to each match.

I'm also convinced the rousing sing-a-longs go a long way towards creating the brilliant atmosphere we've seen on display so far this tournament.

So, Rugby NZ 2011, if there's any way you can free up some tickets, I'm sure the singers who've been assiduously learning everything from Russian to Samoan over the past few months would really appreciate it.