I wasn’t supopsed to be at Rugby Park on Friday night. It doesn’t matter how much planning you put into somethings, they can be undone by one simple thing – The British Weather. Technically, the weather had also undone this fixture too – Glasgow Warriors should have been taking on Munster at their Scotstoun Stadium in the West End of Glasgow but the pitch simply hadn’t been able to cope with the wet weather since Christmas. In fact it had been over two months since the pitch was deemed playable. After the success of playing on the 3G at the aptly named Rugby Park, home of Kilmarnock FC a few weeks ago against Racing 92, it was decided to switch it to there. Only issue was Kilmarnock were due to play at home on Saturday, so the game was switched to Friday night. My travel plans didn’t originally involve rugby at all – in fact I was supposed to be sitting in Firhill, watching Partick Thistle take on Aberdeen in the Scottish Premier League on Friday night, but that darned weather intervened again and so with the football off, I came to the Rugby at Rugby Park instead.
A quick word on the name of Kilmarnock’s ground. Bar Stamford Bridge, the ground is the only one I can think of in the United Kingdom that features the name of another sport – that is until someone sells their soul to Hi-Karate of course! There used to be a rugby club in Kilmarnock, who merged with the cricket club and formed a football club – logical really. It has been used sparingly for rugby in the past, although has hosted an international when Scotland took on Tonga back in November 2014.
This was my first ever trip to Ayrshire and arriving in the town I was met with an unusual sign. “Welcome to Kilmarnock, Scotland’s most improved town”. Now is that a good or bad thing? Was it so bad before that they can quite rightly shout about it now, or are they head and shoulders above other towns? Is there a league table to verify this against? If so, what are the criteria? The streets were deserted, and whilst the Glasgow Warriors had sold around 7,000 tickets, nearly double that of an average football match played at the ground, there was no issue parking within a few minutes walk of the ground. Ticket prices were £25 each, which wasn’t cheap although compared to English top flight clubs it was a bargain. Talking of bargains, who couldn’t be impressed by the world-reknown Killie Pie at just £2.20. Britain’s best football pie is a must on a visit to Rugby Park, and based on the fact that every fan seemed to have one, they must make a killie-ing out of them.
So onto the actual game. The Pro12 is a great concept and one that could quite easily replace the second tier European Competition. You can understand why London Irish have been mulling over the idea of entering it. The concept of testing yourself against strong European sides with free-flowing rugby certainly appeals to the fans, with three teams within a bonus point win of the top spot prior to this game.
Glasgow Warriors 27 Munster 24 – Rugby Park – Friday 19th February 2016
You would have been sick if you had rocked up to this game thinking it was a 7:45pm start and seeing the score 14-14. After just ten minutes we had seen more tries than in most top level games with two tries aside, scored in both instaces by the front rows powering forward. Glasgow could hardly believe their luck as Munster still appeared to be in the dressing rooms as they took at 14-0 lead after just seven minutes when Prop Sila Puafisi surged over the line. Five minutes later Munster were level thanks to a brace from prop Dave Kilcoyne.
The game ebbed and flowed after the break with the lead changing hands on two occasions. Further tries from Duncan Wier and Glenn Boyce for Glasgow and one for Mike Sherry for Munster kept the game in the balance until the last kick. With three second half yellow cards and some torrential rain it was hard not to say you didn’t get value from your £25.
As for the surface? It certainly played very well indeed so the decision to move the game looked justified. My one gripe was that there were frequent awkward moments of silence when the referee was forced to consult the TMO and with no screen available for the crowd to look at everyone, players included had to just stand/sit twiddling their thumbs.