Sunday March 17 2013
LV= Cup Final 2013
Harlequins v Sale Sharks
@ Sixways Stadium, Worcester: k.o. 15.00
West Stand:Block H,Row ,Seat 107: £30.00
Apparently there was a big rugby match in Cardiff this weekend, but not too many miles away the first of this season’s major domestic finals, the LV= Cup, took place at Worcester’s Sixways Stadium.
This is a strange competition. Rather like its soccer equivalent, the Football League Cup, it takes place seemingly when no one else is looking and is competed for by reserve and up and coming players. Originally known as the R.F.U. Club Competition (for which no Cup was awarded) it kicked off in 1972.The insurance company LV= are the sixth sponsor since the first, John Player came on board in 1976. Finals used to be held at Twickenham, but declining attendances caused them to be shifted around various Premiership stadia. Worcester’s Sixways Stadium was the latest, the second time Worcester had been awarded the final after 2010.Most of the 8,297 inside appeared to be supporters of Sale or Quins, but in a 12,000 capacity stadium at least it felt reasonably full.
The stadium itself very much resembles a work in progress. It is dominated by the Slick Systems Stand on the east side of the stadium complex. It was completed in 2008, but despite its impressive size looks as though it was designed with corporate boxes at the front of the queue and ordinary punters’ seating an afterthought.
Winning my vote is the wonderfully named Fragrance Mad Stand or North Stand in everyday parlance. Plans have been approved to make this the same size as the Slick Systems Stand, and eventually push up the capacity to close to 20,000.
Certainly the stadium’s proximity to the M5 makes access by car easy enough; though parking at £10 is not cheap. And however long you delay your departure to savour the post-match delights of the Clubhouse Bar it is inevitably a slow crawl back to the motorway.
Harlequins completed the first leg of a potentially remarkable treble when their emerging generation of players defeated Sale to win the trophy for the first time since 1991. The victory should have provided some succour for Harlequins’ England quartets who apparently were among the crowd even though their Grand-Slam dream had crashed on the Welsh rocks the day before in Cardiff.
Only three of the starting Quins 15 could be regarded as first-team regulars, but 14 of the squad were under 23 and they backed up victory over an experienced Bath side in last week’s semi-final with another energetic team performance. Harlequins still had to rely on Tom Williams and Tom Guest, two old lags in the side, to give them initiative with first half tries. Tom Casson decided a one-sided contest when he sliced through the midfield and it threatened to become a rout when Luke Wallace crossed from close range. Centre Johnny Leota clawed back a consolation try midway through the second half, but by that time Sale’s suffering supporters were already singing “always look on the bright side of life.”