Northampton vs London Irish by Blacksheep
On Friday night I was invited to go to watch the Northampton Saints rugby union side play London Irish at Franklin’s Gardens. Now I suspect some of you don’t like rugby, or like me have never been to a game, whilst others (those further afield perhaps) might have no clue what it is at all. So I thought I’d write up my experience.
Northampton are the Premiership Rugby champions so this was rugby at the high end, a bit like going to the Emirates in fact. Also my invite was to a private box, on the halfway line, quite the BEST seats in the house!
We arrived at about 7.15 a half hour before kick off and we just walked in and told the security chap we were guests of Mr. X (no names, no pack drill) and he ushered upstairs. We walked past the directors’ box and along the corridor to find our box. No one checked our names or asked us for ID, we just breezed in.
Once our host arrived he invited us to help ourselves to wine or beer (in bottles or jugs of lager, Guinness or ale) and we chatted for bit before heading out on to the seats to watch the teams come out.
The supporters were mixed in together, home and away, and it was all very friendly. I noticed several things that were different about rugby and rugby crowds but that was the first. The demographic was different from the Arsenal; these people were generally barbour jacketed, flat capped, and lots of tweed. Nice though and they clapped both sides (when it was called for).
When either side had a kick on goal the screens put a sign saying “Shhhh someone is kicking” and everyone (I mean everyone) was quiet. There was some singing, to familiar tunes (Oh when the Saints…) but generally it was pretty sedate. It might be because it wasn’t (in the opinion of my guides) a very good game. This was Saints’ B team as most of their starts are involved in the internationals (Six Nations).
That’s odd too – I can’t imagine the World Cup taking place at the same time as the PL was running – after all we would have Arteta playing on his own! It’s also hard to get used to the way rugby is refereed. The refs are strict and the players show no dissent, not even gestures tonight. But medics and physios (and even water carriers) seem to come on to the field of play at will. At one point a player was receiving treatment from three medics and the game was going on all around him!
There’s no time wasting because the stadium clock simply counts down. It stops for stops in play and then starts again. At the end of each half when it gets to zero play continues so long as the play is on the pitch and in play. So the moment it goes out (or there is a score) the match ends. No injury time, no need for the ref to adjust anything, it just stops.
I saw a couple of tries, a conversion and some penalties and it was quite close with Northampton winning 15-9 but London Irish making life very difficult for them. The stands emptied very quickly at the end but apparently many people head for the bars. We stayed for drinks in the box and chatted to our host.
Its not football but I enjoyed it and I’ve a much better understanding of the game than I did before.
Coming very soon: The 5000th edition of Untold Arsenal
Anniversary of the day:
- 14 February 2005: Arsenal 5 Crystal Palace 1, this was supposedly the first Premier League match with no Englishmen in the starting XI for Arsenal. Although a celebration of overturning outmoded nationalism the press treated it as a scandal.
And the books
- Arsenal’s new tactics explored in detail and what it means for the season ahead
- How the Premier League referees are biased: an analysis
- Barcelona’s attempt to fool the financial regulator unravels
- Arsenal desperate for more players (according to reports)
- Media completely misses Arsenal’s astounding tactical change