I was fleetingly checking over my blog posts the other week when I stumbled across my Bucket List post from 2015 and decided that I was going to aspire to tick a couple more items off it this year.
One of these was to attend a Rugby Match! Though I had attended one in Coventry last year, it never really counts unless you are watching your home team play at home! Thanks to my friend Laura who is an absolute star, I was able to get tickets to attend Ulster Rugby vs Cardiff Blues on the 7th April 2017 at Ravenhill Stadium!
The match had been constantly advertised on the radio, on big screens throughout Belfast City and over social media which made it even more exciting for me as a newcomer! The match was to be close in score, with Ulster Rugby on a six-match winning streak and Cardiff looking to pull out a win to move up on the Guinness Pro12 table.
I had no clue what to expect, being an ice hockey fan first and foremost I knew that this experience was going to be and entirely different ball game (Quite literally). We arrived and parked at my Grandfather’s who lives near the arena so that we could walk with the crowds. Of course there was a bomb scare on the night on the Cregagh road but this didn’t disrupt the game or atmosphere thank goodness.
After scanning my ticket and making my way through the barrier I was completely overwhelmed by the crowds of people, it was a beautiful night so the fans had come out in their forces. What is usually a car park had been transformed into a food court, with a great variety of food vans and stalls, as well as activities for the kids and information points. I immediately picked up a programme both for memory and to help me follow the game.
We were seated in the Grandstand, but as it was my first game and only my mum’s second we had absolutely no clue where to go, but volunteers, event sec and staff were all very approachable and friendly and we were pointed in the right direction very quickly.
The grandstand had an amazing view across the whole pitch and we were led to the seated section (there is standing just below). As soon as we reached our seats we realised that we were sitting beside the Cardiff Blue fans, in fact I was the separating seat between them and the Ulster Rugby fans. The two older men were amazing company and were very patient with all my questions throughout the match as well as entertaining me and making me laugh during the interval.
The match itself was amazing! I have only ever really watched Rugby on TV and you never imagine it to be as rough as it is!With 4 Cardiff players picking up injuries, and Ulster’s own Jared Payne! Hopefully none of them are too serious though there was oxygen and a buggy needed for two of the Cardiff players. I was also able to learn how they score a point and how much each different type of try is worth! The atmosphere in the arena was great and I loved being able to jump up and cheer whenever Ulster scored a try, as well as join in some of the chants the fans had to offer.
Unfortunately some of the experience was ruined by an Ulster Rugby fan who was very bitter, and constantly encroached on my mum’s personal space, nearly squishing her leaning over her constantly, shouting in her ear etc., whilst also insulting the Cardiff fans sitting next to me who lucky enough were very polite and never bit to his comments, involving the welsh’s involvement in Brexit, How everything originated from Ireland and many more comments which I can’t remember. It’s always the way when you go to events that usually someone around you will ruin the experience slightly which is a shame considering we were enjoying ourselves.
If I had any advice to anyone heading to their first match it would be the following:
• Arrive early
• Use the park and ride system instead of trying to drive and park, police have the road closed off and even then people were parking wherever they could find a space, up Mt Pottinger, Cregagh Road, Loopland and all surrounding the arena and streets nearby.
• Get your food and drinks first, and be prepared to queue!
• If you want a more comfortable experience I would definitely suggest buying a ticket in the Grandstand or the Nevin Spence Stand
•Wrap up warm! Even though it was sunny when we went it got pretty cold in the evening
• Programmes are only £3! It’s jam packed full of information which really helped
• Enjoy yourself and have fun!
There are only two more home games! You can check them out and buy tickets HERE
*All opinions are my own, and my experience differs to others.