For the first time this season, I had some rugby union to look forward to this weekend, albeit a trip to Cardiff was part of the deal. Heineken Cup weekends usually throw up some interesting fixtures, so not only does it give me the opportunity to shoot the sport I love so much and yet see so little of, but the number of matches usually means that one or two of them will be played on a day when there is little or no football to be covered.
Having said that, Saturday was no different to the norm, with football on the agenda…Manchester United vs. Stoke City.
Anti-racism t-shirts aside, my main concern was with which team to go with. These two sides tend to employ fairly opposing styles of play…United are known for their passing and counter-attacking, but have looked slightly shaky at the back of late. Stoke, on the other hand, usually take a more direct route. They play a strong, physical game under the instruction of no-nonsense manager Tony Pulis. These factors meant it was a difficult match to guage, but I went with my instincts and (I think) they paid off.
On Sunday, I made my way back down to Cardiff for the Heineken Cup rugby union match between the Blues and the all-stars of Toulon, of France. The early-morning fog lifted as I dropped down off the M4 and headed into Cardiff. A difference of probably 10 degrees, at least, between the sun and shade did little to deter the fans, who turned out in force at the Arms Park, an old ground bursting with history and tradition, sat in the shadow of the giant Millennium Stadium. Shooting conditions were a nightmare…the one side we were allowed almost all the way along would have meant us shooting into a bleached-out background of white brick and advertising boards, but otherwise, our choices were limited to the very corners of the pitch. I chose to shoot into the sun, keeping my backgrounds in the shade and therefore as dark as possible. With the pitch half in the sunlight and half in the shade, it wasn’t an easy match to shoot.
Despite a valiant effort from the Blues, they were unable to score more than one try, and the familiar, unforgiving boot of Jonny Wilkinson helped consign them to a home defeat, leaving their chances of progression hanging by a shoestring.