On Friday night Northampton Saints played Leicester Tigers at Franklin’s Gardens in the first battle for a place in the Premiership final. I watched it on television , and even allowing for commentators’ attempts to stoke the fires it was easy to place the unmistakeable smell of cordite lingering over the Gardens. It was the after-math of a wonderfully explosive and occasionally brutal,contest between the bitterest of rivals.When hostilities ceased it was Northampton who collected the spoils of this particular war.
The two towns are about 30 miles apart. Saracens and Harlequins on the other hand are divided by about 15 miles of congested London roads.But there does not seem to be the underlying animosity between the two clubs that would cause a chess match between Tigers and Saints to break out into a fight.
Therefore a play-off between the two sides matched by intent rather than playing strength never seemed likely to replicate the atavistic ferocity of the bout at Northampton on Friday, but the two London rivals had a go in a tremendous match of thrills and spills. Quins prop Kyle Sinckler even dared take an axe (quite legally) to the home side’s totem pole,Jacques Burger. But for all their strategy and cunning ,Quins could not overcome the greater strength of their opponents,nor an unfamiliar surface that, on the warmest day of the year, sapped energy when they most needed it, and they conceded 20 unanswered points in the second half after leading 17-11 at the interval.
A tremendous advert for the Premiership,and I got a suntan to boot.