France had played Canada in an earlier World Cup game at Stadium MK. The report in The Times included a verdict on the venue. Heritage was “non-existent”, atmosphere was “manufactured but manic, with the full house determined to enjoy a big night out.” Crowd knowledge was “good enough, with a mixture of polite applause and the inevitable Mexican Waves.”Perhaps the prejudice against MK Dons,aka Franchise FC extends beyond the confines of SW9!
The Guardian also had a reporter snooping around the crowd. She pointed out that “if the rugby didn’t hold their attention, they could always cross the road to the multiplex, and there was plenty of shopping nearby.”
She considered Milton Keynes “the perfect locale for witness protection, if the number of people who admit to living there is anything to go by”
Sorry to disappoint her, but we have friends who have lived in Milton Keynes for years, and who were kind enough to offer my wife and I a lift to and from the stadium, so that we forsook the pleasure of the fan-buses or forking out £15 for a park-and-ride site.
And once you get into the stadium it is a delight. Chatting with other fans, most of whom were attending their first game at the ground, they were equally impressed, commenting on the comfort and legroom in the seating. The seats were high-backed and padded, similar to those at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium. We were seated in the South Stand, behind one set of posts, where the biggest danger came from flying balls. There was even praise for the toilets, offering wide entrances, space, and hot running water. Such luxuries at a football ground!
After their exploits against South Africa there was no doubt that Japan were the crowd favourites. And this time they had had sufficient recovery time after their loss to Scotland. And once again they showed they are no longer fodder for the big guns, but a team who can bring legitimacy to rugby union’s claim to be a world sport. This match was all about their skill and endeavour.
The match was settled in a first half in which Japan produced a near-flawless performance to lead by 20 points. That left the second half as essentially an exercise in holding their gains, which they did comfortably.
As for Samoa, they were second best throughout, often losing discipline. Three men were yellow-carded.
Incidentally, the attendance of 29,019 was a record for the stadium for any sport.
Japan host the next Rugby World Cup in 2019, and after what was to befall the current hosts later that evening, should hopefully put up a better fight.
Current coach Eddie Jones is leaving after this World Cup. Just so long as they don’t employ Stuart Lancaster in his stead. Though Japan’s forwards coach, one ex-England captain Steve Borthwick, must be a candidate for any future England set-up.
One whinge. The match programme cost £10. A fair amount of editorial, but given that this was Match No 24, it contained not a jot about the previous 23 matches. No results, no table of points or try scorers and no tables for the four pools. It’s called information and in that respect the customer forking out his £10 is being short-changed.
It can be done. Wimbledon charges a similar amount for its programme, but it manages to contain a full statistical coverage up to the previous day’s play.