Brighton, England: Fun, fun, fun in the sun, sun, sun

Brighton looked like Party Town UK this past weekend with two Rugby World Cup games, the Fiery Food Festival, the Costume Games and the well-timed Japan Festival.

A Japan rugby fan on a Brighton street.
A Japan rugby fan on a Brighton street.

The sun shone bright, the Japan rugby team pulled off the biggest rugby upset ever — at Brighton Community Stadium no less — and many costumed people showed up as their alter egos or maybe just as their fun-loving selves. And there was dancing, dancing in the streets.

Many hen and stag parties for prospective brides and grooms, and there was a bit of drinking. OK, there was a lot of drinking.

Our hotel was next to the famous Brighton Pier with its carnival rides, arcades and foods worthy of any state-fair midway.

If all the World Cup venues can deliver this kind of weather and this kind of atmosphere, the next six weeks are going to be fun, fun, fun til Delta takes our luggage away — and us with it.

The Foreign Legion, or an approximation of it, showed up at our hotel bar.
The Foreign Legion, or an approximation of it, showed up at our hotel bar.

U.S. Eagles “masters of our own misfortunes”

Titi Lamositele (No. 3) of Bellingham, WA, squares off against Samoan defenders.
Titi Lamositele (No. 3) of Bellingham, WA, squares off against Samoan defenders.

“We were masters of our own misfortunes” was how Justin Fitzpatrick, forwards coach for the U.S. national rugby team, summed up the Eagles’ loss to Samoa on Sunday.

Too many penalties, too many movements left unfinished, a couple of missed kicks and some failures at defense resulted in a 25-16 win for the Pacific Islanders.

Mike Tolkin, the U.S. head coach, was asked at the post-game media session what the Eagles would do differently in their next game.

“Hopefully, win,” he answered.

He went on to say more discipline and more continuity were what he wanted from his team this coming Sunday against Scotland.

The Eagles gave up 15 points in penalties.

“At the end of the day, we were still in position to win but could not finish,” Tolkin said.

He said he was also disappointed that they missed out on getting a bonus point from the match. Teams receive one point in the standings for a loss of seven points or less.

With the U.S. trailing 22-11 with only 11 minutes left in the game, a try would have put them within six. Then the Eagles were called for crossing, essentially blocking, which is not allowed in rugby. Samoa added three points with the penalty kick so that when Chris Bauman scored a five-point try — three minutes after he entered the game as a sub — it needed to be converted to get the Eagles within seven. Alas, the kick, would have added two points, went wide.

(Other bonus points in the standings: four points for a win; two for a draw; one for scoring four or more tries – win or lose. No points for a loss of more than seven points.)

On Wednesday, Scotland plays Japan, who shook up the tournament – Pool B especially – with their shocking upset of South Africa on Saturday.

Tolkin said the upset might cause Scotland to re-think what players they select for Wednesday’s game.

Scotland might have been tempted to hold out some of their best players against Japan. But after Japan’s 34-32 win over the Springboks, that would seem unwise.

So when the U.S. plays Scotland on Sunday, Sept. 27 in Leeds, they may face a team of players with only four days rest while the Eagles will have had a week to recover.

And what about South Africa, the Eagles’ Pool B opponent on Wednesday, Oct. 7? Any word on how the unexpected loss has affected them?

“We won’t wallow in others’ misfortunes,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’ve got enough on our own plate to deal with.”

Here’s how it stands in Pool B:

Japan: 1 win (34-32 over South Africa) 4 points

Samoa: 1 win (25-16 over U.S.) 4 points

South Africa: 1 loss (32-34 to Japan) 2 points (scored four tries in loss by less than seven points)

United States :1 loss (16-25 to Samoa) 0 points

Scotland: Plays first game against Japan on Wednesday

The Samoan haka before the match.
The Samoan haka before the match.Wit

U.S. Eagles lose 25-16 to Samoa

The United States gave up 15 points on penalties and could not stop the hard running Samoans from scoring two tries as the Pacific Island nation won 25-16 in the first Rugby World Cup match for both teams.

Captain Chris Wyles and substitute Chris Bauman scored tries (worth five points each) for the U.S. Eagles, and Al MacGinty put through two penalty kicks while missing two conversions.

Less than 10 minutes into the game, the U.S. side gave up their first penalty and Samoa went up 3-0 on the kick by Tusi Pisi.

Pisi’s kicking skill would figure in the next score as Samoa won the ball from a loose ruck and took the ball to the weak side with Pisi kicking ahead to the back corner of the try zone where the ball was downed by Joe Tekori for five points.

Pisi missed the conversion but would add two more penalty kicks before the half when U.S. players were called for not releasing the ball in loose play and then for playing a man without the ball.

The Eagle best moment in the first half came with 10 minutes left as their forwards stole a Samoan lineout, had the ball out to the backs, who went 70 yards and several passes before Wyles touched down for the try.

MacGinty missed the conversion kick but was perfect on a penalty kick two minutes later. The half ended with Samoa leading 14-8.

With less than 10 minutes to go in the match, the Eagle forwards had controlled the ball for several phases on the Samoan try line before Bauman picked up the ball on the right side of the ruck and dived over for the try.

Titi Lamositele of Bellingham played in his first Rugby World Cup game Sunday and was replaced late in the second half by Olive Kilifi of the Seattle Saracens.

The game was played at Amex Brighton Community Stadium in Brighton, England. The United States faces Scotland next Sunday in Leeds, England.

USA, land of pretend world championships

Hard to argue with the summary of the USA rugby effort in The London Times Rugby World Cup guide this past Thursday.

The world, it said, has been waiting forever for the game in America to “harness the big hitters brought up on American football and handlers coming in from basketball.” Then United States rugby could challenge anyone.

But in the meantime, The Times said, this RWC is most likely to “make America realize that sport does not start and end with pretend world championships in American football and baseball.”

The U.S. challenge to get some positive notice on the world rugby stage starts in a few hours as the Eagles take on Samoa at Brighton Stadium.

Not sure how much notice a win will bring, given this question raised by an English fan I talked to yesterday: “How does it feel to be an underdog to a country with a population of less than 200,000?”

But a loss would once again keep the world on hold waiting for the U.S. to answer.

Japan’s win scrambles Pool B prospects

Not sure that Australian scrum half Nick Phipps would still say this about the U.S. rugby team now, but before the Wallabies beat the Eagles 47-10 on Sept. 5, he told The Guardian: “They should cause a couple of upsets at the World Cup. They have some very big, dominant forwards. They have some really big, tall timber in the second row. They also have a couple of centers that are hard runners, and are quite skillful in the offload area as well. They have got threats all around the park.”

The Eagles will need to use all those threats on Sunday as they face Samoa in their first Rugby World Cup 2015 match. A win over Samoa would not be an upset as they have come within a try of beating the Islanders in previous matches. But a win could set up the U.S. to do well in Pool B, which was set topsy-turvy on Saturday with Japan’s upset win over South Africa, previously the heavy favorite to win the pool.

Even with a win on Sunday, it would still be a tough road ahead for the Eagles. Japan is obviously not going to be an easy win on October 11, and before then the U.S. will face Scotland and South Africa, who will be looking to pick up the extra pool points that come with scoring four tries in a match. The way this Pool B is starting out, it could be decided not just on wins and losses, but on getting the advantage through scoring more tries.

It’s set up for a very competitive couple of weeks.

Lamositele, 20, gets first RWC start

Titi Lamositele
Titi Lamositele

Titi Lamositele of Bellingham will play in his first Rugby World Cup match Sunday when the U.S. Eagles meet Samoa in Brighton, England.

The 20-year-old from Sehome High School will be up against Sakaria Taulafo, who has played for Samoa in 36 international matches.

In the July meeting of these two teams, Lamositele scored the Eagles’ only try in a 21-16 loss in the Pacific Nations Championship.

Brighton: A great weekend for the Japanese

If you only have time to visit one thing: The Royal Pavilion in Brighton. (Photo by Kathy Triesch-Saul)
If you only have time to visit one thing: The Royal Pavilion in Brighton.
(Photo by Kathy Triesch-Saul)

This is going to be a great weekend for the Japanese here in Brighton. Not because they will be playing the South African team in the Rugby World Cup game tomorrow at American Express Brighton Community Stadium.

That might be the worst thing that will happen to Japan here this weekend.

The Lanes in Brighton. A warren of cobbled streets and hanging baskets and hundreds of little shops. (Photo by Kathy Triesch-Saul)
The Lanes in Brighton. A warren of cobbled streets and hanging baskets and hundreds of little shops.
(Photo by Kathy Triesch-Saul)

The good things will be the Costume Games and the Brighton Japan Festival, which celebrates Japanese traditions as well as modern culture. It ends on Sunday.

The festival is the birth place for Brighton’s annual Costume Games, also going on this weekend. It’s a five-day gathering of people dressed as their alter egos with a parade on Saturday night down Madeira Drive, the street along the coast here.

Despite RWC teams from three other countries playing in Brighton this weekend, tourist officials here are expecting the Japanese to be the largest group of foreign visitors to the seaside city. Charlotte Barrow, marketing officer for VisitBrighton, said they have hosted several Japanese travel agencies recently and been visited by NBC Broadcasting. She said Brighton is expecting a residual effect from the Japanese visitors here this weekend and from the broadcast of the games in Japan.

“People will see it on TV or hear about it from their friends who came here and want to visit themselves,” Barrow said.

But about that game on Saturday. South African team members were very polite and probably overly kind when talking about the Japanese team at a press conference today. There was nice-nice talk about Japan having a strong team that would give the Springboks a tough test.

“We’ve seen some strengths in the Japanese team,” said Springbok Captain Jean De Villiers, “and we’ve seen some weaknesses in the Japanese team and we hope to exploit them.”

My prediction is that they will exploit them to the tune of a 76-10 victory.

But the Japanese will always have Brighton.

Gotta run. England vs. Fiji is about to start. My prediction: England 21, Fiji 14 and England will lose at least one key player to injury for the tournament.

My other prediction for Brighton this weekend: USA 9, Samoa 7. We’ll see.

The Brighton pier. (Another photo from Kathy Triesch-Saul)
The Brighton pier.
(Another photo from Kathy Triesch-Saul)

At Rugby School, there’s no doubt about where the game began

Rugby School Head Master Peter Green wasted no time addressing the question of whether or not the game of rugby started at his school. Immediately after saying welcome to about 60 members of the press on Wednesday, he said, “Whether it was William Webb Ellis or not may be debatable, but what is not is that the game started here.”

The Close at Rugby School, where the game began.
The Close at Rugby School, where the game began.

Green compared the cherished tradition about the start of the game to an Old Testament story, something too good to fade away. Some would say that long before Ellis took the ball in hand “in a fine disregard of the rules,” others were carrying, not kicking, something in some kind of game. It might even go back, they say, to Roman times.

Maybe.

My kind of chapel carving.
My kind of chapel carving.

But as Green pointed out, the rules of the modern game were first written down by students at Rugby School. The first games were played at The Close, an enclosure used for grazing. So players shared the field with sheep, which must have made for some nasty stains on their clothes (no uniforms back then; boys played in school togs). Green said the sides could be as many as 200 against 70 and the matches could last five days, although the rules in the 1880s cut that to three.

Strange to have such lop-sided sides, but maybe there is something in what Green said: “Once some students posted a sign that there would be a match between those who had been flogged by the head master and those who had not. The head master then posted a sign underneath that said if this match came off everyone would end up on the same side.”

Rugby School was founded in 1567, moved to its present grounds in 1756 and Ellis — or someone — ran with the ball in 1823. The school now has 800 students aged 11 to 18 and admitted girls 40 years ago. But it does not have a women’s rugby team.

Statue in Rugby to William Webb Ellis.
Statue in Rugby to William Webb Ellis.

“We have girls keen to play,” Green said, “but there are no other schools playing women’s rugby.

“Rugby is a school of obligation, not privilege,” Green said. “We expect our students to leave here and make a mark on the world.”

Previous Rugbeians have done just that. The game of rugby spread as former Rugby students, fellows or teachers became head master at other schools. Others carried the game out of Britain, including Richard Sykes, who some say brought the game to the United States and also established towns in North Dakota.

Rupert Brooke and Matthew Arnold (his father, Thomas, is credited with introducing sports when he was head master at Rugby) are famous poets.

(The paragraph below is in error, brought to my attention in Caspar’s comment below. “O His Coy Mistress” was writtne by Andrew Marvell. Please click here to see my correction.)

Arnold’s poem “To His Coy Mistress” has been one of my favorites since the last day of my college freshman English class. That’s when the girl I sat beside and fruitlessly dreamed about all quarter said “if some guy used that line on me, I’d fall for him in a minute.”

Then I heard the class bell ringing at my back, and she was gone.

Ball maker
Peter Prince, a former shoe maker, stitches rugby balls at the William Webb Ellis Museum.

In the art gallery and out, undisputed masterpieces

Off-and-on good weather in Oxford this week, which has meant off-and-on touring. But more colleges were visited, a meal was had at a famous pub and a great art exhibit was seen.

Inside the Eagle and Child pub.
Inside the Eagle and Child pub.

Let’s start at the Eagle and Child pub, which J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and other members of the “Inklings” referred to as the Bird and Baby when they met there starting in the 1930s.

Residence building at St. John's College.
Residence building at St. John’s College.

Walking past the busker playing the baritone and then across the street, we find St. John’s College, founded in 1555. In the size of the student populations, the colleges here are in great contrast to the big U.S. universities, and many colleges as well. St. John’s, for example, has less than 400 undergraduates, 250 grad students, 100 fellows and 25 lecturers, according to its web site. Former prime minister Tony Blair went to St. John’s as did novelists and poets A.E. Housman and Robert Graves, the web site reports.

Tom Quad at Christ Church College. Selfie sticks are everywhere, and two tourists are using one here.
Tom Quad at Christ Church College. Selfie sticks are everywhere, and two tourists are using one here.

Down the street from the Eagle and Child is Christ Church College, one of the largest colleges at Oxford University with 430 undergrads and 215 graduate students. It was founded in 1524 by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey as Cardinal College. But when Wolsey fell out of favor with Henry VIII (that happened a lot with Henry), it was refounded by the king as Christ Church.

It has the largest quad, a grand dining hall and an ornate chapel with a soaring stone ceiling.

The dining hall at Christ Church College.
The dining hall at Christ Church College.

Visitors were being shooed out of the chapel today so that the Women’s Institute could commemorate their 100 years in existence. One of the women setting up for the event told us the organization got its start in Canada. Its web site says it came to the United Kingdom in 1915 “to revitalize rural communities and encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the First World War.” It’s the largest volunteer women’s organization in Britain, works on education for women and campaigns on issues important to them and their communities.

The chapel at Christ Church College.
The chapel at Christ Church College.
The purple arrangement at the altar.
The purple arrangement at the altar.

My favorite chat was with a woman setting up the flowers for the event. She was not happy with the arrangement at the altar. “Purple is a receding color,” she said as she tried to bring out that color in her arrangement by playing the purple flowers against the white ones. “But it’s what they want,” she said. Looked quite lovely.

On to the dining hall, which was re-created in a studio for one of the Harry Potter movies.

The
The “firedogs” in the Christ Church dining halls.

Another famous story may have roots in the dining hall. The andirons in the fireplaces have a familiar look to anyone who remembers the telescoped shape “Alice in Wonderland” took after eating the cake marked “Eat me.” Charles Dodgson, who taught mathematics at Christ Church College, is better known as Lewis Carroll, the author of the story. The Alice in the story comes from the daughter of a dean when Dodgson was there in the 1860s.

The portrait of Alice Liddell is in the left window. The White Rabbit is in the lower left corner.
The portrait of Alice Liddell is in the left window. Alice in Wonderland is in the lower left corner.

A portrait of the real Alice is in one of the stained glass windows above the tables in the dining room. With the portrait of Alice Liddell are images of the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter and the Red Queen.

Edith Liddell as St. Catherine in in the center panel.
Edith Liddell as St. Catherine in the center panel.

Alice is not the only Liddell daughter to be immortalized in stained glass at Christ Church College. Her sister, Edith, appears as the face of St. Catherine of Alexandria in one of the windows in the chapel.

The current exhibit at the Christ Church Picture Gallery comes from Gen. John Guise, who bequeathed his collection to Christ Church in 1767. The collection includes more than 200 paintings and 2,000 drawings, some from Michelangelo (1475-1564), Titian (1480-1576), Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Raphael (1483-1520) and Albrecht Durer (1471-1528).

The drawings were especially well displayed in cases with effective lighting, explanations with insightful information on what to look for in the drawings and even a railing to lean on while you read the words and related them to the works.

Entitled “Undisputed Masterpieces,” the exhibit marks 250 years since Guise’s death. A nice way to be remembered.