2014 Queensland Premier Rugby ‘Game of the Round’; Round 4 (‘Books Of The Beach Blitzed By Big-Smoke Counterparts In St Lucia’)
UQ ‘Red Heavies’ vs. Bond University Gold Coast ‘Breakers’; St Lucia Oval 5A; 12/4/2014
“As they parade before the bustling coup of second-and-third-champagne-in young things, hysteria breaks loose; the ladies rush the fencing, hooting and hollering, pawing and grabbing beyond the confines at the passing pack of ultra-suitable mates in all their pre-picket-fence-and-two-point-five-kid glory.”
Report by Nicholas Turner
MDB descends on the lustrous turf of UQ Rugby’s home ground on an afternoon of occasional sunlight and a little overcast steaminess. The visitors are the Gold Coast Breakers, now Bond University’s team, meaning that it’s a city/surf student showdown; loosely, aspiring doctors v aspiring plastic surgeons. It’s also, incidentally and yet in no way disappointingly, Ladies Day. UQ’s is by far the most coveted ‘Ladies Day’ ticket on the Premier Rugby circuit; where other clubs summons at best a considerable handful of singles to amble free-range inside the sectioned-off space wherein paper bracelets denote free drinks, here at UQ they’re jammed in so tightly that they’ve hardly room to scratch themselves. Their pretty and much made-up little heads poke awkwardly through the temporary fencing in a way that recalls those horrifying ads that ask us to boycott battery farm eggs. The inside word is that this afternoon’s fundraiser sold out in just under 36 hours. By the looks of it, even that was overselling the space.
On a side note, the style of the season is fluorescent and shimmery; all the girls look a little like deep-sea fishing lures.
About five minutes before the opening whistle, the UQ side completes its warm up and heads for the dressing rooms. As they parade before the bustling coup of second-and-third-champagne-in young things, hysteria breaks loose; the ladies rush the fencing, hooting and hollering, pawing and grabbing beyond the confines at the passing pack of ultra-suitable mates in all their pre-picket-fence-and-two-point-five-kid glory. The players, somehow, retain their game-day Zen, keep their heads down and faces expressionless. I’m not terribly sure if I’m opening myself up to reverse, inverse or inverted sexism by suggesting that, for all their effort to block it out, the players probably don’t mind being on the butt end of out-and-out objectification today. I mean, if they’d like to be less interesting to women, they’d have chosen to play at Wests…Zing!
The game kicks off with the usual technical quibbles and feet-finding of week-four play. In a first half that gives little away, UQ have the upper hand but not by much. While the Gold Coast team has clung tight, they’ve got some systemic issues that are as plain and unpleasant as warts. The first is that, despite at least a half dozen genuine early chances to swing it wide, they fail to shift the ball past the centres. And not because the defence is particularly brisk; simply because they drop it cold or else throw it wildly; it all just goes to the dogs far too repeatedly. I find myself wondering late in the half if they’ve managed to field an all-left-handed backline, since the first time they actually find the winger is the first time the assignment is right-tending.
Which brings me to the second issue that should well be on the Gold Coast whiteboard come Monday; their outside backs make terrible running decisions. Ball retention in counter-attack and near-sideline play is just crap, largely because isolated runners tend to decide to stop dead and flop to the earth in solitude. It’s a classic symptom of trusting neither back-up runners nor loose-forwards and/or being unpractised in effectively stalling play and/or just not being strong enough, and it completely bones any chance Gold Coast might have to steal a couple of tries; frustratingly enough, they’re outside runners are clearly quick enough to threaten.
The breakdown today is not nearly a thing of beauty. The game just doesn’t work out that way. UQ are, as usual, an across-the-board fit and physical side, organised above and beyond all else, clinical in the mould of Brothers and GPS. For the first half of the game they play OK but with a lack of sting, crossing over for a pair of tries that are more inevitable than exciting. But once the second half gets going, the true character of the game reveals itself. It’s a mismatch.
The second half goes; try (UQ), try (UQ), try (UQ), try (UQ), try (UQ), try (UQ), try (UQ), give or take a try that can only be to UQ because I’m absolutely certain about how many points Gold Coast score and that’s none. There’s not really all that much to learn or single out except, yes, UQ have some great inside-back vision, and look like they’re going to do their scoring this season through the middle. Gold Coast, on the other hand, just get the bad end of it and they accept it pretty early on. Their big number four seems to play by his own rules once he reckons it’s all over, skulking behind the defensive line, waiting for a chance to step in and make at least one UQ player feel average at full time. It doesn’t work out quite like that; instead there’s one more gap for the city boys to score through.
The inevitable result is sorted by about twenty to go, and attention wavers beyond the sidelines; even the pre-teen manning the scoreboard walks away from the monotonous job and starts making sand castles in the long jump pit. On the synthetic running track between us and the field, a match race between a five-year-old princess and a Ninja Turtle restarts every few minutes and it’s usually the turtle that wins. Around us in the stands fully grown men in mum’s-dressed-me-for-a-birthday-party combinations of tucked-in pastel and branded Ralph Lauren caps and leather sandals are pretty common. Over in the eligible bachelorette enclosure, shirtless boys in bow-ties hand out trays of cheap champagne, their pants’ seats worn thin by pecking hands. And up in the sky a camera drone hovers as a near pitch-perfect symbol of something that’s too hard to describe here and now. In short, it’s by no means the most boring afternoon to endure a forty-point romp.
As for the outcome of Ladies Day; it is in a spirit of journalistic rigour that MDB stays abreast of social media feeds into the night as these frenzy-whipped women are served up and get to party with the victorious doctors’ sons in an after-match and all-night orgy (to use the word only in the PG-rated, ancient Roman sense of there being much food and drinks and whatnot to gobble up). Plenty in the way of solid records come over the interwebs into the early hours, but perhaps the soberest and most family friendly and exquisitely understated tribute comes from UQ Rugby’s own Twitter feed the following morning:
“A red UQ Rugby tour jacket with car keys in the pocket has gone missing at the Ladies Day event tonight… If you have taken the jacket please return it to the club house on Monday morning and no questions will be asked.”
If the beholder of said jacket is among MDB’s readership, let not shame withhold her from doing the right thing.
Match Day Burger Rating: 5.5
MDB Service Atmosphere: 4.5
MDB Cost: $5.00
Result: UQ 47, def. GC 5
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