Two weekends ago I headed to Edinburgh, on the good old night bus, to watch the Champions Cup final. Formerly known as the Heineken Cup, it’s Europe’s premier rugby competition and defending champions Saracens were up against twice-losing finalists, Clermont Auvergne.
Having been to watch Saracens more frequently this season, and on the odd occasion in previous years, they’re definitely my ‘UK team’. Their 10,000 capacity Allianz Park is always packed with a wonderful atmosphere and visits to north London are super afternoons (this season Biggs had 2 season tickets and was the the stand-in plus 1!).
I’d never been to a Champions Cup final before and was super keen, buying tickets for myself and the boys as they were released over 9 months ago! (Tickets are already on sale for the 2018 final in Bilbao!) And at £35, they were phenomenal value for a major final.
Despite the unsurprising damp weather, there was a wonderful buzz around the city with its many watering holes decked out in yellow and it was evident there were far more Clermont fans in town. Thankfully the rain subsided and we had a clear late afternoon for the rugby. It was also far warmer than November when we usually watch rugby in Scotland!
I’ve made three such November visits to Murrayfield to watch the Springboks and it’s a super place to watch rugby – brilliant atmosphere and great views wherever you sit (which for us is always up in the rafters!).
Today was no different and there was a wonderful buzz in the stadium with the Clermont fans in fine voice and it turned out to be a pulsating game of rugby …
Saracens’ lead stretched to 8, courtesy of the ever reliable Farrell boot, before Clermont scored one of the all-time great European tries. Running pretty much from their own 22m line, the ball went through at least 6 players and made its way to the halfway line before their number 7 received it, made 20m down the touchline and sublimely offloaded in the tackle, while bumping off Farrell, for the winger to score. Wow!!
Clermont were well and truly back in it but unlike the Saracens of say 3 years ago, they stood firm, withstood everything that was thrown at them and remained calm, eventually going over in the corner to extend the lead to 11 (25-14). Clermont pulled 3 back and had a wonderful opportunity to get within 5, missing a very make-able penalty, but Saracens remained calm and focused and went over for their third try with just under 10 minutes to play. That stretched the lead back to 8 before a late final Farrell penalty made it 28-17, which is how it all ended.
Saracens had retained their European title and we were there! What a day out and a special weekend with great friends.