I wonder how many people watching the final rugby of the season last weekend realised how privileged they were.
Four of the best rugby teams in their world, club and International, were playing back to back. It was a real treat and just shows how when crowds come back the entertainment and fan engagement is going to go off the charts.
The B&I Lions were hugely impressive against Japan for 40 minutes, blocking them out of the game and performing as a seasoned International side rather than a hastily put together tour party with all the unique challenges of their make up as well as the current environment. I was super impressed with Tadgh Beirne as well as Dan Biggar who showed distribution skills to match the best.
The true worth of their first half performance was made clear when Japan came at them from every angle for the duration of the second half and won the scoreboard although not the match of course. The reason we all fell in love with them in the last World Cup was in evidence and we want to see more. Their pace and handling set the standard in 2019 although no-one seems to have paid attention in 2020/21 that this is what fans want to see. I fancy they would have won the Six Nations quite comfortably and definitely the Autumn Nations Cup.
Meantime a quite unbelievable match played out between Exeter Chiefs and Harlequins in the Premiership Final. My old club Quins found a traditional recipe last Christmas after a pasting by Racing 92 in the Champions Cup – play without fear, with ambition and pace, with a smile and with no regrets – and then they mixed it so well that they became Champions of England. No disrespect to Exeter Chiefs who remain a champion team and delivered a performance which would have wiped out anyone – except Quins. The triumvirate of Dombrandt, Smith and Care are simply magical and those first two will play as many times for England as Care did. Or perhaps Dombrandt will share with Sam Simmonds unless he is picked at 6 and they both play – and if that happens England will win the World Cup. Sounds fanciful but they are that good and they fill a huge gap.
To see the great Michael Lynagh in tears is to imagine the joy of seeing his son Louis in action on the main stage but also to appreciate the emotion behind the magnitude of the achievement of his team. This was rugby from the gods, in a grand final and against the odds. It has been said that this was the greatest final ever – believe it, for the way it unfolded, the Covid season the players have suffered and their resilience, the consummate and constant skill levels throughout and in the drama of the final ten minutes.
Why only 16.000 in BT Murrayfield and 10,000 at Twickenham could watch these two great contests will warrant an answer on a postcard, probably signed by Paddington Bear in darkest Peru for all the common sense involved.
While the B&I Lions are now in a South African bubble, Japan pinch themselves that they actually played a match and Exeter Chiefs lick their wounds comforting themselves that they played in an all time classic. When I played at Harlequins for the first time, the post match entertainment was traditionally at Annabel’s. The majority of them will probably still be there or somewhere equivalent. Chapeau!