Leicester Tigers played the Harlequins in a premier rugby ‘A’ league final at Welford Road on Monday 3rd May 2010 –

Having never been to a rugby match before, organisers at Welford Road were running a free game – in exchange for your contact details. But hey – what are a few phone calls and e-mails in exchange for the chance to see what rugby is about?

The Rugby Football Union (R.F.U) suggests that Rugby is a territorial, full-contact, team game, inclusive of all shapes and sizes, where 20-stone bulldozers are valued just as highly as small, pacy whippets. During the course of an 80-minute match (two halves of 40 minutes), two sides of 15 players and six substitutes, officiated by a referee and two touch judges, try to outscore each other.

There are various ways to score points.

Five Points: The most valuable, a try, is scored when a ball-carrier grounds the ball over the try line – the line the H-shaped posts stand on at each end of the pitch.

Three Points: At any time during open play a player can attempt to kick the ball between the posts and over the bar using a drop kick.

Three Points: Penalties can be awarded by the referee for a number of infringements. Once awarded a penalty, the team captain can choose either to kick for goal, kick for the touchline, or run with the ball in hand.

Two Points: A try gives the opportunity to kick a conversion, which is a free kick at goal from a point directly in line with where the try was scored. The ball must go over the bar and between the posts to score.

Unlike the continuous game of football, there’s a lot of starting and stopping in the game of rugby. This is partially due to the dangerous physical tackling that’s involved and the rules, introduced in the name of safety, governing what counts as a legal tackle. Once a legal tackle has been completed and the ball-carrier is on the ground, they must release the ball immediately or risk being penalised by the referee. ‘Holding on’ will result in a penalty to the opposition.

Ideally, the player will try to present the ball behind them for a team-mate to collect. The tackler, or any other players entering the tackle area, must be on their feet before attempting to play the ball and must approach the ball from their own side. Failure to do so will result in a penalty. For more information about the rules of rugby, please click on the R.F.U. link given above.

The Leicester Tigers’ lineup included (15) Lucas Amorosino, (14) Billy Twelvetrees, (13) Dan Hipkiss, (12) Sam Vesty, (11) Manu Tuilagi, (10) George Ford, (9) Harry Ellis, (1) Robbie Harris, (2) Jimmy Stevens, (3) Julian White, (4) Dan Hemingway, (5) Calum Green, (6) Ed Slater, (7) Ben Woods, (8) Ben Pienaar. Replacements included (16) Charlie Clare, (17) Jonny Harris, (18) Ryan Bower, (19) Tom Armes, (20) Matt Everard, (21) Sam Harrison, (22) Andy Forsyth and (23) Connor Smith.

The Twickenham based Harlequins’ lineup included (15) Tom Williams, (14) Ollie Lindsay-Hague, (13) Nils Mordt, (12) Tom Casson, (11) Sam Smith, (10) Rory Clegg, (9) Sam Stuart, (1) Joe Marler, (2) Aston Croall (Capt), (3) Dan Frazier, (4) Tomas Vallejos, (5) Charlie Matthews, (6) Chris York, (7) Luke Wallace and (8) Tom Guest. Replacements included (16) Rob Buchanan, (17) Darryl Marfo, (18) Will Collier, (19) Mark Lambert, (20) Sam Stitcher, (21) Seb Jewell, (22) Waisea Luvenyali and (23) Josh Drauniniu.

The final score was 29-27 to the Leicester Tigers. Scorers for the Tigers included trys from Tuilagi (twice), Hemingway and Hipkiss. Conversions from Twelvetrees (three times) and a penalty from Twelvetrees. Scorers for the Harlequins included trys from Smith, Matthews and Williams. Conversions from Clegg (twice) and Luvenyali and penalties from Clegg and Luvenyali.

The larger stands on each side of the pitch were about 80% full, with more space in the stands at each end of the pitch. The ball came flying into the audience several times, threatening to really hurt someone if they weren’t paying attention – it looks like it would be more painful to be hit with a pointy-end rugby ball than a round football! Each time the ball was thrown back into the game, being caught by a player or the couple of ball boys waiting patiently by the side of the pitch.

The audience ranged from 5 – 80 years old, with plenty of people munching on chips or burgers. Lots of people were drinking beer, but no-one appeared to be drunk. There was no throwing of empty beer glasses or food wrappers, and no insulting of the players. It was a very well behaved crowd. There was a small band of Harlequin supporters, complete with flags and banners who regularly started to chant in support of their players, but each time was squashed into submission by louder chants from the Leicester Tigers supporters. Polite, complete silence descended every time a player attempted a conversion. During the interval there were rugby players wondering about collecting money for charity and handing out wrist bands, signing them for the audience.

If you have a rugby club in your area, take a look at the schedule and pay a visit. There might even be free events just like the event described here. As an integral part of the community you owe them your support!