Here We Go Again…..

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The Match

Saturday September 7,2013

Northampton Saints v Exeter Chiefs

@ Franklin’s Gardens: k.o. 15.00

Aviva Premiership : Round 1

Church’s Stand:Block R:Row M : Seat 590: £40.00

Northampton Saints……38

Exeter Chiefs………………11

 

It seems like only yesterday that the final whistle blew on the Lions’ winning tour of Australia, which came after England’s success in Argentina. But a new season has just kicked off, one that heralds a new era of change and expectation.

Northampton Saints have splashed out and recruited not only Lion George North, but also another Lion in Alex Corbisiero and the Samoa scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i. With that trio on board and skipper Dylan Hartley determined to prove his doubters wrong, Northampton are one of the favourites to go one better than last season and win the Premiership title.

 

Access

I let the train take the strain. Northampton is only an hour out of London Euston, and I managed to bag myself a day-return for £12.00

The clubs’ web site advises that the station is approximately 20 minutes’ walk from Franklins’ Gardens, but obviously hadn’t allowed for the extensive building works around the station that took 5 minutes to navigate.

Then its turn right, continue past the Thomas A Becket pub, the Church shoe factory and bus station. At the fork in the road bear left and the stadium is on the left.

Alternatively just follow the green and black clad hordes….

Apparently the No 22 bus takes you to the ground from the station, but the stop seemed to be a casualty of the building works.

 

Welcome

The steward I asked for directions, and the programme seller, were friendly enough, but it took a walk round the ground to find my stand.

The back of my ticket had a map of the ground but no indication of the layout of the surrounding roads.

 

Ticket/View/Comfort

I had paid £40 for a seat in Block R of the Church’s Stand. This was virtually in line with the try line at the southern end, and fortunately was where the Saints scored their four first-half tries!

 

Atmosphere

 

Saints flew out of the traps and opened the try-scoring after only two minutes through Dylan Hartley. This set the 12,205 crowd up nicely, but what really got them excited was their expensive summer signing, George North. He had to wait 17 minutes for his new team-mates to give him a pass, whereupon he had the crowd cheering a mazy run from his own 22 to inside the Chiefs’ 10-yard line.

 He might well have scored, so deafening was the roar. Saints Director of Rugby Jim Mallinder claimed afterwards that “I’ve not bought him here to get people off their seats.”Maybe so, but North did just that.

 

The Game

Both these sides had been heavily talked up in the build-up to the new season, but it’s already easier to believe the predictions that Saints could go one better than last season’s runners –up position than it is to see the Chiefs raising their level to one of the top four playoff places.

 

Of course, one game does not maketh a season, but not many sides are going to come away from Franklin’s Gardens with much to show for it, but Exeter looked nothing like the side who finished last year with six wins from their final seven games.

 

Eating and Drinking

The club’s website was making much of a “new dawn “in the club’s catering. So one can only guess what pre-ceded it. There were lots of earlier comments in the blogosphere about long queues.

In the Village behind the South Stand there was a fair assortment. There was a Dominos pizza van, along with burger and fish and chip vans, a hog roast, a coffee van and the sweetie van.

I have to confess the only one I used was for a coffee and muffin post-game.

Value For Money

An afternoon at Franklin’s Gardens is not cheap. My ticket was £40 and with Northampton operating a tiered pricing policy had it been say Saracens I was watching I would have forked out more

The programme was £3 and for that you got 84 pages, with about 25 of those consisting of third-party advertising.

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