The evening of Wednesday 9th October, apparently the first of several stupidly windy days, saw the kickoff of the Men’s 1st XV vs Nottingham charity match at Durham City Rugby Club, an event which conjured such immense volume from the crowd as could only be rivalled by the howling northern wind. However, sporadic spurts of insipid rain from the heavens did little to stifle a hearty home crowd that could be heard jovially roaring fragments of such classics as ‘That’s What Makes You Beautiful’ whilst clutching beer, steaming chips, and each other, in a packed spectators’ stand.
Indeed, the atmosphere amongst the sea of sensibly bobble – hatted, sports – jacketed onlookers was matched, if not superseded in intensity, by that channelled by the purple shirts on the pitch, who, having been crowed Rugby World’s ‘Team of the Year’ from 2012 to 2013, and hailed as reigning BUCS champions, promised a strong performance. Play was certainly relentless, perhaps even more so than the weather, and although there were a handful of exhilarating runs and impressive catches from both sides, the majority of the action was fought out firmly inside Nottingham’s half to the violently audible glee of Durham supporters.
For a game that, from a layman’s perspective at least, looks much like semi – organised carnage with players swarming and dispersing without much hint of a discernible formation, there is something almost valiant in the way that the players hurl and crunch together to win possession, shake off the side-effects of getting seriously ‘stepped on’, and jog back to their positions for another go. It makes for an engrossing, if not empowering, ninety minutes.
The sheer physicality of the sport in general throws into stark relief the unique nature of individual roles that constitute a team; Durham’s forwards certainly displayed the ‘strength and physical presence’ delineated by the RFU website, just as the backs did their ‘acceleration and creativity’. Furthermore, Nottingham undeniably put up a fight in the form of a handful of tries and conversions. However, several successions of elegant, or rather gloriously inelegant, manoeuvres in the second half secured an easy victory for the home side. This show of finely – tuned solidarity and unswerving vigour extended palpably to the guttural chants of ‘DURRRUUUM!’ bellowed jovially from the sidelines as the home team secured a solid victory, and to all the individuals who have a more personal hand in the team’s successes.
Such post-match euphoria brings me back to the premise of the match itself, the ninth of its kind, which will see its proceeds go to support Sport in Action Zambia. Aided by support from the Wallace group, (the universities of Stirling, UWIC, Bath, Durham, Loughborough and Northumbria), this non-government funded project founded in 2005 seeks to aid personal and social development in impoverished communities through the medium of sport. The joy that pervades Durham’s pitch-side stands (amidst the curling smoke of polystyrene-cradled chips and rapidly cooling coffee) and the sportsmanship among the players, forms an integral part of the motivation behind this project which sees volunteers spending a summer in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, working with local volunteers to organise community sport programs and health awareness workshops. The project specifically targets areas prone to high levels of unemployment, crime, exclusion and health risks such as HIV and Aids; sport, with its requirements of discipline, determination and close community, provides an opportunity for order as well as fun.
The ultimate goal of the project is to deliver a sense of self-reliance and personal development through this organised provision of sport that will have a lasting impact on individuals and their communities. As was clearly observed at Wednesday’s match, the joy to be had in all aspects of collaborative team sport is endless.
Indeed, it is rare in life to have the clarity afforded by the ambition attached to a singular goal; the 1st XV certainly seem to rise to the challenge, quite literally head – on, and any blood spilled is shed in high spirits. Durham’s efforts saw Nottingham wrestled to the ground and culminated in a 44 – 13 win, one of four victories for DURFC (Durham University Rugby Football Club) on the same day. Such a win, and perhaps even more so, a turnout, constitutes another victory for the spirit of sport, that sense of achievement and belonging that can make all the difference.
If you would like to find out more about Sport in Action Zambia or Durham University Rugby Football Club (DURFC), please follow the links below:
Durham University Rugby Football Club (DURFC) : https://www.teamdurham.com/universitysport/universityclubs/rugbyunionmens/latestnews/
Sport in Action Zambia: https://www.teamdurham.com/community/sportinaction/