You do not have to be a member to buy from us, but there are lots of benefits to becoming one!

A European Rugby Special comes to London

So it came to pass that the two National proxies of Irish and French rugby came through the sternest of tests to set up a Champions Cup Final which already has us salivating and could surpass anything that the designated venue of Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium has hosted in any sport.

I always say that this tournament is International rugby played in club jerseys, but here was the tribalism of club rugby being played out by legions of International players, a subtle difference. A different intensity, vivid, colourful and dramatic.

To see Toulouse dish out brutal and awesome treatment to the combative Quins in the first half, putting the game to bed it seemed, was a beautiful and breathtaking experience to watch. My old club side was no bystander however and certainly ‘swung the bat’, challenging the might of French rugby who could still call on two of the best players in the world, Ramos and Marchand, from the bench as they could not get into the starting line up! That’s tough to take and more on that another time. 21 year old Costes in the Toulouse centre was I dare say one of the main differences ultimately, a skilful paceman in the style of Denis Charvet (go take a look on YouTube) and surely an International in the making. That is, after Dupont who was peerless and whose support running lines are a thing of beauty. Harlequins made their own mark in the biggest match in their history, Tyrone Green and Andre Esterhuizen the pick of a stunning backline performance which had the Toulouse crowd on edge to the end. A mention for the Quins front row and our Sporting Wine Club ambassador Will Collier who showed England yet again what they have missed during a period of weakness in that position.

Meantime, 83,000 at Croke Park would have imagined a 20 point lead was  comfortable and an easy route to London for Leinster, but Northampton Saints had other ideas with a large chunk of England’s back line starting to click and nearly pulling off an unlikely win. I don’t quite get the same feel with this Leinster side as that of the recent past and they won’t get away with such a mixed performance against the multi faceted Toulousains.

The Premiership may feel that their inferior budget did for both Saints and Quins but it is not that simple. They will both regret basic moments of weakness, semifinal pressure does that to you, in hostile surroundings but with their opponents very much at home.

The other national proxy, Benetton were underwhelming in Gloucester, perhaps suffering the hangover from a great Six Nations. A last minute win by the star studded but low flying Sharks over a favourite European team of mine, Clermont, has delivered the organisers a dream Challenge Cup Final. London is stacked full of South Africans who will flock to East London along with the huge support of the Cherry and Whites who crave a title after years of underperformance in the Premiership.

For EPCR, they did a great job and this has been a stellar weekend with more than 130,000 supporters in attendance and some terrific rugby to watch. Sometimes in the domestic competitions of PRL, URC and Top 14 you can be left a little underwhelmed by a lack of intensity. This was International rugby in club jerseys, on a different level and with the club tribalism alongside these are special experiences for fans and players alike. Chapeau! 

Related Articles

A Tale Of Two Sports

May 23, 2024

Red Roses In Bloom For Grand Slam Decider

April 25, 2024

Harlequins Paint Vivid Colours Across Europe

April 18, 2024

England’s Lights Shine Brightly In France

March 26, 2024

Can England Light It Up In Lyon?

March 15, 2024

Stuck In The Middle – An English Dilemma

March 8, 2024

Sign up to our newsletter

Get our latest news and special offers direct to your inbox.

Please confirm that you are over 18

By clicking the below button I can confirm that I am over 18 and I am eligible to order products from the shop.