This just-past grand rugby weekend saw my debut at Celtic Park and my debut Pro 14 game! Formerly the Pro 12 with provincial teams from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Italy and France, the tournament is now the Pro 14 with the Cheetahs and my home team The Kings having joined the fray last season.
The iconic 60, 000 seater Celtic Park was hosting rugby union for the first time and the city was expectant with Glasgow Warriors having swept aside Ulster in the semi final. They were up against the defending champions, Leinster, who were chasing their sixth title with four of their previous five having been won at home in Dublin.
Leinster were hurting after losing their European crown to Saracens two weeks before and out to ruin the home team’s parade. It promised to be an enthralling contest between the attacking flair of the Warriors and the precision, power and grind of Leinster although the wet weather, whilst not dampening spirits, definitely had a big part to play.
I caught the good old night bus up to Glasgow and it was amazing catching up with Darragh over a few beers and a great game of rugby. Darragh and I met and traveled together through India in 2011, and trekked through the Nepali Himalayas together, and there was much rugby chat whilst on the road together! A huge Leinster fan, we headed to the local Irish bar Waxy O’Connors where we got the day off to a great start with delicious beers, rugby banter with the many Leinster fans in town and the English premiership semi-final between Saracens and Gloucester.
We wisely decided to find a late lunch before heading off to one of Scotland’s most famous stadium – Celtic Park. First opened in 1888, it moved to its current site in 1892. Close on 50,000 were in attendance and the wet weather was in no way dampening spirits.
The Warriors got off to the perfect start and scored a beautiful opening try to lead the defending champions. That lead lasted only 60 seconds as a Stuart Hogg clearance was charged down and Leinster were on the board. Johnny Sexton was uncharacteristically poor in front of goal and a penalty from the Warriors stretched the lead: 10-5.
Leinster very seldom let leads slip (granted they had 2 weeks earlier but that was to the best team in Europe) and they showed what makes them a formidable side as they pinned the Warriors deep in their own half.
We gingerly set off for the beautiful Loch Lomond National Park the following morning and spent the rest of the long weekend trying to walk off Saturday’s many beers!