Well, I finally know what it feels like to support a winning team. The nearest I've ever got in the past (Burton RFC excepted), is when I went to the old Wembley to watch the Baggies win the old Div 2 (Div 3 in old money Div 1 in new) Play Off Final 3-0 against Port Vale. 41,000 boinging their way to victory. I ended up with bruised shins (from falling off a chair I was boinging on) and a sore throat. For those of you who have never seen it, boing involves all the fans jumping up and down, whist singing 'Boing Boing, Baggies, Baggies,' in a repetitive manner when scoring or winning a game. (not a common occurrence in the grim days of the 90's.)
Anyway, today I watched the Sarries scrape home against the Tigers. Revenge for last year when Tigers nicked it in the last couple of minutes. It wasn't the free-flowing rugby of the week before, but it was just as compelling. At the death the Tigers pounded the Sarries line for over 10 minutes but the defence that has served Sarries so well this season held out. Sometimes rugby is like a game of chess, as two teams try to unlock the opposition's defence. Today was typical of that.
The atmosphere in the game wasn't quite the party atmosphere of last year. Too much boo-ing of kicks, not helped by the kickers re-setting the ball. It makes no difference to the players, but you just worry that the sense of fair play is slipping from the game, by such boo-ing.
After the game we played the usual 10 minute game of hunt the missing mate in the bar as we got separated. Please Twickenham, can you find somewhere on match days to put more loos - temporary ones will do as a 10 minute wait in unacceptable, at the price of the tickets.
The Karoake afterwards was jumping as Sarries and Tigers fans mixed and partied. Long may that continue. We don't need to be locked in a stadium while the opposing fans leave.
On walking towards Richmond, we went past the Sarries coach just as all the players were leaving. I was suddenly 10 again, as I had my picture taken with my favourite players, (sorry to the ones I missed as there was probably another 20 I should've had my picture taken with. Schalk Britz, Matt Stevens, Andy Saull, (one for the mantle piece), Alex Goode, Jacques Burger, Jamie George etc. And my all time favourite player and in my not so humble opinion, the best player of his generation, Richard Hill. That one may also get framed. (Sorry A, you'll be cut off that one.)
Then we went to the Sun Inn in Richmond, which had a great party atmosphere, even though the Man U/Barca game was on TV. It also seemed to be the referee's end of season party, and this time it was F's turn to be 10, as she met Dave Pearson the referee. 'Ooh, I'm your biggest fan, I love you,' she said. Dave Pearson replied, 'Oooh, I've got a fan club of one....' Top bloke - apparently he's reffed at Burton. You can feel quite self righteous about rugby and its camaradarie, spirit etc. but name the sport that allows the match day ref, (who'd given a contraversial yellow card in the first 6 minutes of the match, even though it was the right decision, but I would say that wouldn't I - it was a Tigers player. If killing the ball in the 60th minute is a yellow card, then it is in the 6th minute.) Where else could Wayne Barnes, match day ref, have a few drinks with friends, chat to fans, not be challenged in any other sport. I can think of one particular sport, which has lost control of discipline, as it moves to a multi billion pound business (in off shore accounts of course), where a similar decision would've meant death threats and a police escort for weeks afterwards.
Wearing the Burton shirt in a rugby pub makes you realise how well known the club is nationally. We met a guy who played for the club in the late 70's early 80's who's now part of Footscray rugby club. There was also half the Sarries team from the same period, who had connections with the town and had played for Staffordshire. The spirit of rugby continues.
I don't like Queen - all that pomposity in their music, but whenever there's a crowd celebrating a win, their music just works. We are the Champions and Tigers aren't anymore.