Rugby World Cup 2019

Strangers bond as oval-ball fever sweeps Boat Quay

Fans cheering at The Penny Black pub as England score a try during their quarter-final victory over Australia.
Fans cheering at The Penny Black pub as England score a try during their quarter-final victory over Australia. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Boat Quay was dotted with shades of black, white, yellow and green yesterday as rugby fans thronged the riverside bars there to catch the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.

More than 100 spectators filled The Penny Black for the earlier game, in which England beat Australia 40-16, with the majority rooting for Eddie Jones' English side.

Australia fan Cassie Day felt that her team allowed their opponents to get away with the ball too many times.

"I hoped the Australian team would win but I had a gut feeling the English would win... I didn't expect that they would win by our team being so relaxed and allowing the English team to run half the length of the pitch with the ball," said the 45-year-old, who watched the game with a friend.

A few doors down at Charlie's Restaurant & Bar, complete strangers even found camaraderie in their support of their favourite teams.

Phil Carcaterra-Barnes and his wife Julie had not known Ian and Leanna Wickins before yesterday. Yet, the four New Zealanders found themselves sitting at the same table at Charlie's, united by their support of the All Blacks and cheering as one as their world No. 1 team beat Ireland 46-14 in the later game.

Said 51-year-old Auckland native Phil, who is in Singapore on holiday: "(The Wickins) were at a table, we were just wandering down here and we saw that (All Blacks jerseys they were wearing)... they invited us to join our table and we made friends real quick."

Ireland fans Jack O'Brien and Cu Colen, who watched the game at The Penny Black, were disappointed by their team's exit.

The 26-year-old O'Brien, who was wearing an Ireland jersey, said: "New Zealand have won the last two World Cups and they're probably the best team in the world. But Ireland went into the tournament as the world No. 1 team (they have dropped to fifth), so it's very disappointing to see your team lose and especially lose badly.

"There were just a lot of mistakes and, in fairness to New Zealand, they did very well and punished those mistakes."

Both winners yesterday will clash in the semi-finals this Saturday, a fixture that Phil Carcaterra-Barnes is looking forward to.

He said: "It's a big game, I think it's going to be a very evenly matched game but, on the day, the best team is going to win."

But Australia fan Day, who is rooting for South Africa today against Japan in the last of four quarter-finals, is hoping that the All Blacks will be stopped from winning their third consecutive World Cup.

She said half-jokingly: "They need to be taken down a peg because they always win, so it's about time somebody else beat them."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 20, 2019, with the headline 'Strangers bond as oval-ball fever sweeps Boat Quay'. Print Edition | Subscribe