There’s a World Cup on, America! And you’re a part of it!
The 2013 Rugby League World Cup is currently being played in England & Wales, and the United States Tomahawks are in Group D, along with Wales and the Cook Islands. But before we get into that, I need to clear up a few things.
Chiefly, Rugby League is not the sport that comes to mind when Americans think of “rugby.” The sport you’re thinking of is Rugby Union; Rugby League is its faster, looser cousin. There are only 13 players on a side, as opposed to Union’s 15, and instead of the famous “ruck and maul” that occurs in Union when a player is tackled, in League the tackled player tries his best to stand and “play the ball”* as the defense gets back and forms a line ten meters from the play-the-ball.
*It involves standing, placing the ball on the ground, and then using one foot to roll the ball to the guy standing directly behind you, called the “dummy-half,” and hoo boy I had no idea how ridiculous any of that was until I wrote it.
If the offense manages to get up and play the ball before all the defenders are back ten meters, it’s an off-side and the offense is awarded a penalty, and that’s just one of the constant running battles happening throughout the game. But it’s how the offense can utilize those ten meters that makes League different to Union, where players have to make their own space by running incredibly large men into groups of other incredibly large men until someone collapses and makes room.
Anyway, back to America and winning in a sport no one there has rightly heard of: on your way to the World Cup (your very first! Good for you!), you had to defeat two other minnows of the League world: Jamaica, and then South Africa, in order to qualify. Upon doing that, you were put in Group D, and you had your first World Cup game against the Cook Islands, and the Rugby League world sat back and took bets on just how many zeroes would be in the score you were beaten by, and how many of your players would be dead before halftime.
The Cook Islands players lined up and did their permutation of the Haka, and we thought that war-dance would see the first American players drop dead before the game had even started. No one did, but after the Cooks scored an incredibly easy try three minutes in (Try: grounding the ball in the opponent’s endzone. Worth four points) which was converted (Conversion: Similar to a PAT, but the player has to kick from a place in line from where the exact place the try was scored. Worth two points) we thought it was going to be even worse than feared. But then, like the scrappy underdogs you are, you rallied and managed to get your own four-pointer thanks to an absolutely incredible pass by Craig Priestly that had the world’s greatest players punching each other in the back of the head in jealousy, and that was just the start!
The only downside was the Tomahawks kicker being unable to convert anything, anywhere, ever, denying you four points, but you led into halftime with ten points to the Cook’s six.
And you just got better from there.
In what has been, in my opinion, the best match of the tournament thus far, with the lead see-sawing roughly once every ten minutes, America finally put the end result beyond doubt with a couple of quick tries back-to-back, taking the lead 28-20, and the kicker finally showed some form, converting the last try and then, just for practice, netting another two points from a penalty kick. Final score: 32-20.
As we tried to pick our collective jaws from the floor over not just the win, but the quality of play, and after paying back our bookies, many of whom became billionaires overnight due to everyone betting against you, we flicked through the guide to see who was on your hit-list next: Wales. This was going to be interesting…
Okay, look, America… grab a seat. I gotta be honest with you, man… everything I wrote before? That was really just me giving your junk a stroke. Everyone beats the Cook Islands. Wales, on the other hand, are the fifth best team on the planet.
What was supposed to happen, was they were supposed to beat your ass, I’d say “Oh, bad luck! You tried, though!” and then the world would be back in equilibrium.
Instead you, minnows in the League world, beat Wales 24-16. I don’t know what else to say. This means you’ll likely make the finals, which NO ONE ON EARTH would have even imagined you doing. I’m sorry, I’m still trying to pick my jaw up off the floor. The entire Rugby League world is speechless right now. All I’ll say now is two more things: One, your next match is against Scotland, and two, for the love of God, find out which cable channel is broadcasting the Rugby League World Cup so you can watch your team do the impossible!
You can find out who and when you’re playing here.
Aaron Dennis-Jackson is Man Cave Daily’s Australian Correspondent, though not for much longer, as he’s moving to America to make it a sexier, funnier place. You can check out more of his stuff here and here.
Aaron counseled you through Becoming a First-Time Dad… and as usual the solution was drinking. But Forget Foster’s; These Are Australia’s Most Popular Beers