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Guinness Premiership: Harlequins at Newcastle

25 September 2009 No Comment

After spending the day at my hostel, it was time to head out for the reason I was in Newcastle – Newcastle Falcons rugby. Even though the game was not scheduled to start until 8 pm, I departed the hostel around 4 pm. I was hoping to hang out at a restaurant or pub around the stadium before the game. In order to get to Kingston Park, I took the subway from the Monument stop to the Bank Foot stop – although I could have gotten off at Kingston Park the woman at my hostel called the subway and they said to get off at Bank Foot.

Area around Kingston Park
My hopes of restaurants and pubs quickly dwindled as I walked from the subway stop to the stadium and saw no place to eat or drink at. As I got closer to the stadium, I saw a sign for an Italian restaurant that was located in the stadium. I figured this was my best bet for any pre-game meal so I walked that way.

Obtaining Tickets
However, rather than eat at the restaurant first, I walked directly to the ticket office to buy a ticket for the match. This was the first game of my seven days in Northern England and I was unsure how much ticket demand there would be. Since the cheapest ticket at the box office was £18 I bought the ticket.

Pre Game Dining
Before buying my ticket I noticed a pub over the ticket office that I thought might be better than the Italian restaurant. My arrival at the pub was delayed since as I walked out of the ticket office, the Harlequins bus pulled up outside the ticket office and the team walked off the bus. I followed the team into the lobby entrance – they headed to the locker room while I headed to pub called The Hiding Place.

The Hiding Place is a traditional English pub. Traditional enough where they did not plan to serve any food until 7 pm. I was starving at 6 pm, so I walked over to the Italian restaurant to get some food. However, I found out the hard way that the Italian restaurant only seats hospitality guests on game days. My plan of eating a nice meal and enjoying some drinks before the game was dead at this point. The only place in the area was The Hiding Place and they would not serve any food for another hour.

At 7 pm, I rejoiced in the fact I would finally be able to eat. However, all the pub did was roll out a cart of poorly made hamburgers and hot dogs. At this point I started to understand why a Gastropub (a pub that serves quality food) was such an invention in England whereas it is standard in the United States.

Finding My Seat
After eating a bad hamburger and having a couple more pints it was time for the match between Newcastle Falcons and Harlequin to begin. The one perk of being in the bar before the game was that I could exit the bar directly into the stadium. Ah, but there was a catch. You needed to have a ticket for those sections and I was in the standing only section behind the end zone. I actually walked into the stadium, without having my ticket checked at first, but then realized I could buy a beer at the bar and bring it into the stadium.

After buying a beer at the bar, I walked to the other “ticket taker” since the line was shorter. He checked my ticket, and, since I had a standing only ticket he told me I could not enter the section I was heading towards. Instead I needed to take my sorry ass and walk outside of the pub and into the end zone sections. I did that but decided I could not stand since I had already been in the sitting section. I walked by security on the other side of the stadium and ended up sitting at mid-field.

The Game
With a crowd of 5,714 in attendance (so much for being worried about a sellout), the Harlequins and Falcons ended up in a 17-17 draw. It was the first non-soccer or hockey tie I have ever seen as Harlequins came back from a 14-3 deficit.

As with cricket, fans could buy beer during a rugby match.

Post Game
After the game an Irish band played on the side of the stadium I had snuck into. I watched the band for a few songs, but was concerned that I might miss the last subway train back to downtown Newcastle. The last train left at 11:13 pm so I left in order not to be left in Kenton.

Downtown Newcastle
When I arrived back in downtown Newcastle it was time to grab some food. Of course, nothing was open at midnight so I ate at a Kebab restaurant and ordered a gyros platter. As I was ordering another guy had already ordered was incredibly drunk to the point where he could barely speak. When his pizza was ready, he sat down to eat it and proceeded to take his shirt off. The owner yelled at him to put it on which he somehow managed to do so.

After eating, I was back wandering the streets of Newcastle. Once again, the town had come to life with people lining up for a block or two to get into certain clubs.

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