I played for a Champion Club in the 80’s, the serially successful Bath who won multiple Knock Out cups and in fact never lost a semifinal or a Final. But there was always a regret that the public never saw the best of us. We often played well within ourselves even though winning the match.
The reason I start with that nostalgic look back is that the Champions Cup Semi Finals last weekend featured two sides who came out with their A game for the first half and utterly overwhelmed their highly rated opposition, who had themselves come storming into the last four on the back of superlative performances. That takes some doing. The pressure of a semifinal is legendary and both Leinster and Racing 92 dealt with it brilliantly.
Yes, Leinster I have called relentless and they are highly organised along national team lines – well they pretty much are the National team. But they played with a stunning combination of quality back play with forwards running at pace onto the outside shoulders of the defensive Scarlets line. Almost unstoppable on the day. Crucially, they spotted that the Welshmen were tentative early on in attack and their kicking game was off. Scarlets simply had to make a statement from the off and go in all guns blazing. When Leinster realised it wasn’t happening they imposed an immediate stranglehold and never let go.
In a sultry Bordeaux the following day, Racing 92 blew Munster away in the first 25 minutes and it was no fluke. They had observed that Munster defended very narrowly so they moved some of their quicker forwards into the outside channel and attacked mercilessly, especially on the righthand side where centre Nikitawa and International Wing Teddy Thomas ran riot. They didn’t even need Andreu on the other wing who was so outstanding against Clermont, and by the time Dan Carter came on the game was already won. Munster knew they would be allowed to play eventually as the French tired but the game was lost by then, even though Carter had to make two try saving tackles near the end. Had they kept in touch in the first half when penalty kicks were spurned and overlaps wasted then who knows?
I prefer to pay tribute to both Racing and Leinster for their stellar performances under great pressure than criticise either Munster or Scarlets who have played a huge part in the best tournament since the competition started so many years ago. They can be rightly proud but as so many other potential Champion Cup contenders have found out this year it has taken exceptional class under pressure to get through the various stages. I suspect more of the same to win it – on to the San Mames Stadium, Bilbao!
Apart from their love of sporting charities and support for African Township rugby, Sumaridge Wine Estate owners Simon and Holly have been big donors to Elephant Charities over the years and so branded their wonderful Rosé in the name of Tara, the legendary Asian Elephant.
Our exclusive partnership with the Chinese Cricket Club Restaurant in Blackfriars started last week, as does their firm commitment to our Tara!
It was fitting that I met with Hugh Wilson, ex Surrey fast bowler, Chairman of Lloyds Cricket and SWC member, to sample the first bottle of Tara Rosé to be opened at Chinese Cricket Club. A spring like sunny day was a perfect accompaniment and we look forward to a summer of Sporting Wine with Lloyds Cricket as well as a few runs, wickets and victories along the way.
You may have spotted the Moulin D’Issan (our best selling Bordeaux Blend) in the corner of the picture to celebrate Jacky Lorenzetti’s Racing 92 victory over Clermont in the quarter finals of the European Rugby’s Champions Cup.
To celebrate both this victory and the Tara branding please enjoy a 15% discount on both of these lovely wines. Please contact either Alex or Michelle to place your orders.
The Banks of the Gironde represent some of the best wine-growing conditions in France. The world renowned villages of St Estephe, Pauillac and Margaux are where the Sporting Wine Club travelled to visit Jacky Lorenzetti, owner of Racing 92 and self declared lover of fine wines as expressed through his three chateaux.
Chris and I kicked off our mini tour at the Chateau Lilian Ladouys, enjoying some superb French cuisine. Jacky graciously congratulated Chris on the Irish Grand Slam while I continued to practise my French and look forward to the Champions Cup Q Final at Clermont where Racing 92 feature in an all French clash.
After a comfortable night in our 16th century surroundings, the wine tour showed up traditional winemaking skills, and then we moved on to Chateau Pédesclaux, one of the most modern wineries in the world. Stunning technology and gravity based techniques create a Grand Cru Classée Classic and more besides. The tour was a real highlight and the lunch even more so, quality wines in attendance at all times.
Finally to the Chateau D’Issan, whose wines were served at the wedding of Henry Plantagenet and Eleanor of Aquitaine in the 13th Century. A moated Chateau looking onto a windmill (whence comes the Moulin D’Issan) and the river just beyond tells you all you need to know about the beauty of the region. Traditional winemaking techniques again dominated and we were left in awe of the history and quality of all three chateaux we visited.
We will be coming back here that’s for sure and if these pictures don’t persuade you ………
Best Chris and Simon