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A Photo Essay by Bill Hartley

A Photo Essay by Bill Hartley
I photographed my first rugby match in 2016, a friendly between two women’s teams (Northwich & Vale of Lune), it was friendly but very competitive. I was always interested in the action elements of any sport that I photographed but I remember at the time thinking how involved the players were in the game and how serious and intense.

Given how much I currently enjoy photographing and watching rugby, I have no idea why it took so long to follow this match up!

I was going through my archives doing rudimentary housekeeping during the initial Covod-19 lockdown and naturally had a closer look at the images from this first rugby match. I came across the image below of the womens match and thought this was a good example of what I liked about photographing rugby. Look around the image and you will see more than just the pained expression of the try scorer but the anguish of the defenders, the confusion of the fallen defender, the hope on the supporting forward and the concentration of the referee.

See photo of women's game HERE

Fast forward to the middle of my local rugby union leagues 2019/2020 season. The atrocious weather during this part of the playing season was a challenge for those teams whose matches that could be played and subsequent match postponements/cancellations only served to frustrate the teams further.

However, I did manage to get to a number of matches. Yes, I did get wet and muddy and concentrated so hard on the action that at one match, much to the amusement of a number of nearby spectators, I apologised to the flag at the halfway line as I collided with it!

The following images show rugby enthusiasts playing for the fun of it and taking their task very seriously. Look at the images, not just the action but also the human side of the game; nobody on the pitch is thinking “it’s only a game” or “it’s not the winning it’s the taking part”, none of them are merely making up the numbers. Faces, always check the faces, and body language show the involvement and investment of the players in the game. There are tired faces with tired bodies, giving and taking punishment, all of which comes from being in the game and not just part of it.

Look closely at the final image; this is Kyle Blake, Knutsford RUFC number 8, staring into the back of the poised scrum. The time is 15:15pm and the match isn’t going to so well, the final score was 39-27 to Sandbach 3, Kyle is focused on the play as are the first and second rows, they are all in the moment and ready.

The 2019/2020 season was probably not the best time to renew my interest in rugby but I will be back out there when the situation allows. Sports photography provides a lot of rewards when capturing the action and sometimes its only afterwards when you review the image do you see the wider match and game play; the players brings another dimension to it all.

See some more photos HERE