And so to Twickers for my second love – rugby union – and the final of the Aviva Premiership. The hope was that Wasps would make it to the final for the second year in succession but it was not to be as they were railroaded by Saracens in the semi-final last week.
My technical knowledge of the game is not, in my opinion, worthy of being able to provide a detailed analysis of the match or individual phases but it was clear that for the first 10 minutes or so that Exeter would provide worthy opponents and the prospects were for an exciting and excellent final. However, having taken an early lead, Exeter then succumbed to an onslaught by Saracens so much that a substantial lead was built up by half time; Exeter seemed to lose the ability to do the basics right which is essential in any and every sport. Again, team dynamics are key and as soon as one set of errors crept into the Exeter game, then others followed; Saracens on the other hand went from strength to strength.
Exeter perhaps made the mistake of not choosing all their experienced players to take the field from the start – their standard improved noticeably once the experienced players came off the bench but by that time it was too late. I doubt if any team could beat Saracens in their current string of form.
Twickenham always puts on a great show and the atmosphere from the 75,000 in the ground was tangible. There were no issues between fans – the final draws an eclectic mix from all of the Premiership clubs – and you can find yourself in the middle of fans from the finalists, but also most of the other large clubs who nearly made it to the final four. It was all very good humoured – as rugby always is – and with temperatures in the East Stand reaching the high 20s as the late spring sun shone all afternoon, the beer flowed and a great time was had by all.
And was it warm! The forecast had been for rain or showers and having set out under cloudy skies, a series of layers of clothing seemed to be a good idea! How wrong that proved as the travails of travelling and the fun of a rail replacement bus service kicked in – at least the coach had air con but London underground still needs investment to improve their carriages!
Whilst appreciating that the rail system needs work and investment and choosing holiday weekends when travelling numbers are low to do the work seems fine in theory, it’s clear that not that many Network Rail managers venture out on such days to experience the fun of rail replacement services! Almost doubling the time for each journey is not a lot of fun.
But back to the rugby experience – there are few large events which come close to a full house experience at Twickenham but it is very family friendly and youth oriented which is great for the game. Ok, test matches can’t always be played during school holidays so there were very few if any youngsters at Lords this week – and if we believe the ECB children don’t like cricket anyway (so…didn’t they see the keenness of the exhibition by the youngsters at the lunch interval on the outfield at Lords – or were they too busy with their backs to the play?) but the old adage of capture their imagination at an early age and they’re hooked for life. The only aspect which needs work is to increase diversity across the game or at least the paying public – Twickenham tends to look like the British middle class at prayer but that, along with cricket, may have more to do with its imperialist past and history (and possibly ticket prices!) than we like to think.
Anyway, no more live rugby watching for a few months and it’s back to white ball cricket for the next couple of weeks – heading off to see Essex play Surrey in the Royal London one day cup late, assuming the forecast rain holds off.
And finally…an interesting yet probably futile statistic – 75,000 attended the Aviva Premiership final yet only 61,000 the European football final in Kiev – kicking off at 10pm local time was probably not a good idea to attract the local fans?