On Saturday June 26th, 4 lads from Gloucester set out on an adventure to London to watch Exeter take on Saracens in the Premiership final. Myself and 3 other friends from work – Ash, Phil and Sam – had gone to last year’s final and after thoroughly enjoying ourselves decided to make it an annual occurrence, booking our tickets early to make sure we didn’t miss out. After a late shift swap at work (apparently I can’t count alternate weekends correctly) we were all set to go.
Wanting to get there relatively early to avoid the traffic, we met at Sam’s at 8am and travelled in style in his Merc (yes, he’s a show-off but getting to ride in the car we didn’t care!). Of course heading off so early, there was only one way to start the day: a carvery breakfast… perfection! From there it was time to get on the road, with DJ Phil in charge of the tunes and blasting out the cheese and 90s hits for the whole trip down.
As with last year, parking wasn’t an issue as we had rented out a driveway months in advance – if you haven’t tried this before, I highly recommend it – and this left us just a few minutes’ walk from the stadium. Having got our bearings we went in search of a watering hole and found a pub not too far out the way full of Exeter fans… always fun when 3 of us have been given Sarries flags on the way there! While enjoying the sun to varying degrees (I’m ginger so not very much!) we decided to make a friendly wager on the final score, whilst also selecting our picks for first try scorer and Man of the Match (though the money was based only on the result). After a pint there, we made our way back to Twickenham and through the gates. Arriving at the ground earlier than last year, we were able to join the crowds to welcome the teams into the stadium and all but Ash replaced our Sarries flags with Exeter ones. We then spent some time enjoying the atmosphere, chatting to some other fans – including a discussion with a lovely Saracens fan about the new Gloucester badge – and also taking part in a couple of the challenges.
Phil, Ash and I made a passable makeshift front row for a scrum simulator, while Sam was the only one to have any success on the place kick simulator, putting his final kick through the posts while the rest of us struggled to even get the ball to reach the posts in the air. And of course, there was no way we were going to turn down the chance of a photo with the trophy! This chance to enjoy the entertainment alongside fans of all the different Premiership teams reminded me just why I love rugby so much; you wouldn’t be able to do this in many football leagues.
From there we made our way up to our seats in the top tier and we were able to appreciate just how well the seating at HQ had been designed as despite being so far from the pitch we had a wonderful view and were still able to discern who most of the players were with relative ease. The game began and even though the result did not go the way 3 of us wanted, we all enjoyed the match and the atmosphere so much! For more on my thoughts on the match itself, see my article here. After the game, we stayed in the stadium a while to applaud Saracens while they celebrated their win, allowing the worst of the crowds to disperse as we knew that the road we needed to get onto would be closed until 6pm.
From the stadium, it was a short stroll back to the car and by this point the roads were beginning to open up, though it still took a while to get out of London on some of the busier roads. Phil was given the honour of being allowed to drive the Merc home and Sam took over as DJ for the return journey, treating us to some easy 90s, cos everybody loves a bit of Phil Collins. Similar to how the day needed a good start at the carvery, it needed a good finish too, so we stopped at the Harvester at Swindon services and filled ourselves up while catching the first half of the Champions League final on Phil’s phone, while I relied on a friend for updates on the Pro14 final. Suitably well-fed, we got back in the car to complete the last leg of the journey and found ourselves bidding ach other farewell about 9pm.
A 13 hour day well worth it, bring on next year – hopefully with Gloucester competing in the final!