We arrived in Hamilton in time to watch the first big game live... Rhondda School Boys vs Hamilton Boys High School. It was a close run game with the Rhondda forwards showing their strength and the Hamilton backs injecting great pace and running angles, the tiring touring team were encouraged in the final 20mins as the Welsh squad and management stopped as they were passing to support, and their presence lifted the team to almost snatch it in the end.
Our stay in Hamilton had been organised by Trudi Gatland who had encouraged Hamiltonians to open their homes to Welsh travellers and our hosts were brill; having been travelling in a camper for two weeks we were welcomed by the smell of not one but two joints of pork and beef roasting away with veggies and gravy mmm mouthwatering.
We washed it down with bottles of Tui watching the South Africans take on Fiji. Kev, our host, joined us on the trip into town to the 'Great Welsh Re-Union' again organised by Trudi for supporters and their hosts and squad family and friends.
The bar was completely overrun with Welsh supporters with food and drinks flowing, big screen rugby, live band outside and a street carnival feel to Hood St that had been closed off as Hamiltons official fans zone. Here we watched the Ireland game, and as you can imagine we all became Irish for the remainder of that match, chants of 'Ireland... Ireland' rung out, repeated renditions of 'Ireland's Call' and 'Fields of Athanry', I think there was even some Ronan and Westlife in there at some point!
Sunday started with a hearty breakfast and a visit to Fraser Tech Rugby Club next to the stadium, who had opened their doors (and their 1000ml jugs) to host and entertain the Welsh Supporters in our ever growing collection of flags, retro shirts, daffodil and leek hats and fancy dress costumes.
A good place to get match ready with chants of Oggy, Sospan fach and good old 'welcome in the hillside' and just a minutes walk to the game where our nerves were tested in a bruising match, the tension was unbelievable with most of us adopted the hands on head game watching pose and the I can't handle this deep breath stance... finally Shane scored and heart rates lowered slightly, a pensioner stressed to me in the bar after the game... 'if i make it home i'll have to get a pace maker'!! The guys took a lap to thank all the supporters and with that we took the pleasurable sunny stroll into town to celebrate another step towards the quarters.
The great thing about World Cup atmospheres is the amount of supporters from other nations that get right behind the festivities, we partied with; and these are the only ones I can actually remember: Samoans, English, Georgians, and Aussie Elvises, when asked why are you in Hamilton they replied "because the Welsh are here"... oh that's nice :) it's just one big party!
Your's in rugby, a little hangover and a lot of excitement