A large contingent from the Trail Colonials Rugby Club joined Team Canada at the Rugby World Cup, not to play, but to cheer them on and drink in the electric atmosphere.
Nine Greater Trail residents and rugby enthusiasts traveled to New Zealand for 16 eventful days to watch Canada tackle their opponents in the World Cup.
“We had been planning it for three years, so every year we’d put money away to prepare,” said Colonials coach Ray Nelson of Fruitvale.
The World Cup goes every four years, with qualifying teams from around the world descending on the island nation this year.
The crew booked a condo in Auckland and from there a rented bus ferried them to games a few hours from the capital.
Adorned in their Canadian coloured Trail Colonial uniforms and brightly painted faces, they yelled their hearts out for the Canadian side.
“New Zealand was great,” said Nelson.
“We saw Canada come back and beat Tonga in the last five minutes and kind of feared for our lives because there were 60,000 Tongans and only a few hundred Canadians.”
But the Trail fans survived and flourished, their pictures appearing in the local newspaper and on French T.V.
They also watched Ireland upset Australia and Samoa beat Fiji but for games they couldn’t attend, they joined tens of thousands of fans at the outdoor Fan Centre venue that consisted of three monster warehouses with big-screen TV’s showing every game.
“It just kept switching, whichever game was getting ready to play. Like before the French game, there was a million French in town when they played the Kiwis.”
After beating Tonga, Canada tied Japan and lost to France and New Zealand to round out their tournament.
Team Canada was sitting comfortably in third spot until Tonga pulled off a huge upset by beating France in its final match last week.
“It was great for them (Tonga), but it also messed Canada up because if they came in third we would automatically have qualified for the next World Cup and we would have got a bunch of developmental money, so that’s too bad,” added Nelson.
Still, most consider it a great step for Canadian rugby and the experience something the Trail rugby squad will be talking about for some time.
“It was just like going to the circus and all the clowns were there,” quipped Nelson.
The Rugby World Cup continues with the quarter finals going this weekend.
On Saturday, Ireland takes on Wales and England plays France.
Sunday it’s South Africa versus Australia and New Zealand hosts Argentina.