Traversing through the seven circles of hell that is social media has been made a journey of redemption this week, thanks to a beautiful, beautiful try at the Rugby World Cup. Madeleine Chapman breaks it down frame by frame.
Is there anyone on this godforsaken planet who doesn’t enjoy a highlights video? It doesn’t matter what the activity is or whether I even know the rules, give me a 3-5 minute video of all the best bits and I’ll inhale it. The past two weeks have seen my various newsfeeds littered with highlights from the Rugby World Cup being held in Ireland. Most of the videos are of the Black Ferns being unsurprisingly brilliant in their unbeaten journey to Sunday’s grand final against England. Each time I spot one I watch it, I love it, I want more. But then two days ago I watched the highlights of the Black Ferns’ semi-final against USA and I saw something that made me stop. And rewind. And watch it again ten more times. It was Portia ‘Whiplash’ Woodman scoring a try, which is a common occurrence this tournament (she’s scored 13 in 4 matches). But this wasn’t just any try, it was one of the best solo tries I’ve seen in a long time.
It wasn’t a World Cup highlight. It wasn’t a rugby highlight. It was a badass woman running through life highlight.
It deserves so much more than a 30 second clip. Which is why I spent a full Friday afternoon analysing every single frame and discovering a heroine’s journey in Whiplash’s 45 metre run to touch down under the posts.
It all starts so unassuming. In this second, and only in this one second, we as viewers reasonably believe that we could be Whiplash. I’ve been in a backline before, just like that, we think. I am Whiplash, we think. Idiots, the lot of us.
The illusion is broken. Whiplash is in motion and into a gap before the gap is even a twinkle in its father’s eye. The American halfback has assumed that, as is her job as a halfback, she will make this tackle. The American halfback has assumed wrong.
The first-five corrects, willing to leave a gap in their defensive line just to cover for her halfback. She will chide her team mate just as soon as she makes this tackle.
Eye contact is made. In that stare Whiplash pleads for the first-five to give up, please. Don’t make me do this to you, the stare is saying. The first-five misreads the stare and continues in her efforts to play effective defense.
The first-five sniffs the fresh green grass. She knows what that stare means now. She silently thanks Whiplash for her attempt at mercy.
So much open space. So many thoughts to have. In this time Whiplash thinks about the next defender. Whiplash thinks about global issues. Whiplash solves all the global issues.
Whiplash plants her pivot foot for a sidestep. You could anchor a boat off that plant. In fact, legend tells that Whiplash once held up a falling building with that pivot foot.
The American wing dares to lay a hand on Whiplash’s baby. Note: In one frame, Whiplash has switched her carrying hand in order to give the fullback the fend she deserves. Never touch Whiplash’s baby.
Somehow the ball baby has switched hands again. When did this happen? Only its true mother Whiplash knows. Whiplash also knows where the player with the knee straps from the last screengrab went, but no one else does.
This may look like a fend but it’s actually a comforting pat on the shoulder. Well, the collarbone. Whiplash is not without mercy. She only wants the best for everyone. And what’s best for this second-five right now is to sit down.
The second-five thanks Whiplash for her comforting hand. She tries to warn the fullback but there’s no point. Whiplash hasn’t even bothered to look her way because her way is behind, and Whiplash only looks ahead to better things.
Is that the player with the knee straps who disappeared a few frames ago? Doesn’t matter, really, because she’s fighting a lost cause now.
Whiplash brings her baby home. Me oh my I have enjoyed that yes boy.