Sport Comment: Rugby has the ability to infuriate but when in full flow the game simply inspires like few others

 
John Inverdale
Forward Kieran Read in action for the All Blacks
Many of you will have spent last Friday hunched over a computer pretending to be observing market trends and world news, when in fact you were trying to access tickets for the Rugby World Cup next year. 

Some will have been lucky. One or two will have given up after encountering the usual glitches that websites experience at moments of mass demand.

If you didn't manage to get through but then happened to go to The Stoop on Friday evening to watch Saracens demolish Harlequins 39-0, you may have resolved not to pursue the ticket hunt, and instead go on holiday for a few weeks next autumn to avoid a sport that can sometimes be tedious in the extreme.

It wasn't that Harlequins were poor that made the match devoid of excitement. It was that Saracens, so clearly the superior side, came ‘to do a job’  and did it relentlessly efficiently, clinically dismembering their opposition like a surgeon performing a routine operation.  

Scrums took an interminable time to re-set and former England winger David Strettle was substituted after an hour much to the amusement of the crowd around me who couldn't recall him having touched the ball in the entire game. 

I met half a dozen people on Saturday who'd watched the match on television and had fallen asleep. In entertainment terms, it was truly a Friday night horror movie.

Yet if you'd woken up early on Saturday morning and watched New Zealand narrowly beat South Africa in the Rugby Championship, your lost faith in the sport would have been instantly restored.  

The first 20 minutes were startling in their intensity and brilliance, but more than anything else, in their ambition. A kaleidoscope of moves and running lines from players in almost every position made the All Blacks appear like the Harlem Globetrotters, and one piece of skill from No8 Kieran Read to create the winning try was rugby's equivalent of Johan Cruyff's step-over all those years ago. 

When played like that, rugby can be a sport like no other in terms of its rich variety and as the ultimate definition of teamwork. 

So as you surreptitiously return to the ticket website this morning, be positive. You might spend a lot of money on a stinker that makes you wonder why on earth you bothered, but you might also get one of those sublime occasions that makes you realise why you love sport at the very highest level. And don't worry. The boss won't mind.  He's logged on too.

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