Located in the heart of the downtown core of New Konigstadt, by the glittering waters of Maple Bay, was one of the city's most iconic structures - the Robert C. McKenzie Rugby Stadium, affectionately referred to as the “Giant Pill” by the locals. It was also the home of the Maples, Candanadium’s beloved national rugby team.
Rugby was a distinctly Candanadian sport, and although it was originally invented in Caskhomir way back in the 17th century, it quickly spread throughout southern Candanadium to become one of the two great national pastimes. Tickets for the Maples sold out at alarming rates, and Johan de Klerk considered himself lucky to have come across a ticket for the test match against Sonvarim for only $250/3/120. He had only been discharged from the Royal Caskhomirian Regiment last month, and like any Caskhomirian, he appreciated a good old game of rugby.
This match, however, would be anything but good. With the recent Edofasian occupation of Alayka, there were rumours that Candanadium would intervene, leading to even more tension than normal on the Candanadian-Sonvarian border. Tempers would be high at this game, and Johan could hear Candanadian fans occasionally yelling something provocative to the Sonvarians filing in to the stadium. He had a good seat, not too far up in the stands, which gave him a good view of the pitch. The teams were concluding their warmup exercises, the Maples dressed in their traditional red and white, and the Sonvarians in black, with the golden eagle of their empire on their chests.
The referee approached the Candanadian captain, Haans Cansberg, wearing the number two shirt. He had donned a red scrum cap, to prevent his ears from being scraped or ripped off in a particularly violent ruck, maul, or scrum. Cansberg was a short man, but built like a boulder, with powerful arms and a thick chest. The referee said something to him, then left to speak to the Sonvarian captain as the Maples began filing back into the changing rooms. The match was about to begin.
“These guys won’t be like the Trefjalli or the Belkhomirians. They won’t let us walk all over them. We may have the upper hand in experience, but they’ve got the bigger pack. You cannot get sloppy, and you cannot let your guard down. Let’s get out there, make those tackles, and keep your cool. Everybody got that?”
“Yes, skipper!” The team roared with enthusiasm.
“Let’s go make our country proud then.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, please rise for the Candanadian national anthem, The Maple Leaves Forever, and the Sonvarian national anthem, March of the Golden Eagle.” The voice of an announcer with a Caskhomirian accent not too different from Johan’s own rang throughout the stadium. The gathered audience rose to its feet as the same message was repeated in Kanadiaans.
There was something eerie and oddly beautiful about hearing sixty-three thousand people belt out the national anthem, Johan thought. He remained standing for the playing of the Sonvarian anthem, which reminded him of a Kanadiaans military march. The audience took their seats again as the players ran out on to the pitch. A ball was tossed to Sasha Lyetsgorodsky, the Candanadian fly-half, as the referee blew a long blast on his whistle.
The game was underway, with Lyetsgorodsky booting the ball into the air, eventually landing in the open arms of fullback Erik Georgsson, who tossed it to Malcolm Moffat, the centre, as he was brought down by two burly Sonvarian forwards. The two Candanadian flankers, both of Trefjalli origin, flew into the ruck, pushing the Sonvarians off of the ball. A further Sonvarian attempt at turning over the possession was ended by the referee, who told the defenders to leave the ruck.
“Kick it up! Kick it up for Zack!” Lyetsgorodsky yelled to the scrum half in Caskaans. Off the pitch, the team spoke Oseanian and Kanadiaans, but on it, Caskaans was the language of choice, as most of the players hailed from Caskhomir, and an opponent was less likely to understand Caskaans than Oseanian or Kanadiaans. Doing exactly that, the scrum half van de Kaap kicked the ball over his shoulder and sent it flying to the right of the field, landing a few inches in front of Candanadium’s top try scorer, Zachary Underhill. The winger scooped up the ball and went into full gear, making a beeline for the try line. The Sonvarian defence had not anticipated such a kick at all and were scrambling to catch the Candanadian winger, but they were too late. Underhill crossed the try line and slammed the ball into the ground, then pumped his fist in the air in celebration.
“Try, Candanadium. Number 14, Zachary Underhill. Candanadium, 5, Sonvarim, 0.” The announcement was almost drowned out by the cheering from the crowd. Johan cheered along as the fly half began setting up for the conversion kick. He watched as the ball soared between the goalposts, and the crowd cheered again.
“Candanadium, 7, Sonvarim, 0.”
“Great work in the first half, lads. Get some water on board, and keep it up for the second half. They’re getting mad out there, but you need to be the bigger man. Don’t fall to temptation. Even if you get punched, it’s their red card, not ours.” The team laughed.
“Real encouraging words, skipper.” The number eight quipped.
“Ach, shut up Olive, if anyone’s going to get punched it’ll be you.” This evoked more laughs from the team as the back row forward flipped the captain off. Candanadium had walked away from the first half with three tries, two conversions, and two penalties, but conceding a penalty to the Sonvarians, making the score 25-3.
“Send him off! Send the bastard off!” Johan yelled, like many of the spectators around him. A Sonvarian lock had elbowed the Candanadian number eight, Olivier van der Vine in the face, trying to get him off of the ball in a ruck. The Sonvarians were getting disorganized, and their emotions were getting a hold of them.
It was the 80th minute of the game, and the next time the ball was knocked on or played into touch the game would be over, with Candanadium leading by 26 points. The Sonvarians had scored a pair of tries of their own, and snagged two more penalties, but that was nowhere near to levelling the scoreboard.
The referee drew out a red card from his pocket and held it to the sky, and pointed at the Sonvarian number five to send him off the pitch, the crowd roaring its approval. Although the match was as good as over, the Sonvarian lock forward would appear in front of a International Rugby Federation assessment board to explain himself after the game.
Johan saw the Sonvarian fly half dropping deep behind the ball carrier, ready to attempt a drop goal in a futile attempt to snag three more points for Sonvarim. Surely enough, the scrum half flung the ball to the number ten, who sent it flying between the Candanadian uprights. The referee produced a long blast from his whistle, then two short, one long, calling the match to an end as the stadium erupted.
Candanadium had proven her superiority in the game of rugby, but could Candanadium triumph in the global game of power?