The Premiership final  2015

The Premiership final 2015

  Day 1 Well my weekend started at 5pm on a Friday. Which in my line of work is unheard of! But I did indeed get out of work at 5, and raced to Wolverhampton train station to pick up my pre-booked tickets and head down to London. The first pleasant surprise of the weekend was my pre booked ticket allowed me to travel by any route, Which seldom happens, so I managed to hop an earlier train, and at 7.10 I was in our nations capital and following Google maps and zen to find my hotel. For the record, the County Hotel at Euston may well be surrounded by some luxury hotels..... but it's a very, very basic hotel with a bit of a 'prison' vibe going on. If you're thinking of staying here.... be prepared to slum it! (at £30  a night though, I can deal with it!!) the lack of.... anything in my room meant I took myself off for a 3 hour urban ramble. Managed to find the beautiful St Pancras station, bit of shopping in Oxford St (i bought a coke and some cookies) and even found 2 pubs who's menu bear my name! (The Rocket and O'Neills). Early night had. Evening 1 done. Off to Twickers tomorrow!! woohoo!   Day 2 well the early night backfired. Despite a really comfortable bed, I woke up at 5 so went to the (shared but very clean) bathroom for a shower and had a crappy cup of instant coffee as i wait for breakfast to be served to set me up for a long day! Bit of sightseeing out the way, I headed to Twickenham for the big game (and to meet my fellow #BloggersBench people!) Thankfully I managed to get my press accreditation despite my name being put down wrong, the perils of a double barrelled surname! So as the 'Avengers Assembled' (that ones care of Luke!) We went in to the ground, and eventually after going into the wrong press box, myself and Matt of Bathbytes finally went down to our spot at the actual Bloggers Bench, even managing to bump into Brian Moore at one point. I should've asked him why he blocked me on Twitter..... The Game Twickenham always looks amazing when it's full and in the sunshine, and the final was no different, a perfect setting for a game of this magnitude! The teams took the field to an absolutely electric atmosphere, the advantage in the crowd seemed very heavily towards Bath, and we were sat right in the middle of a blue, black and white ocean. Not the most comfortable place for a Gloucester fan! The first talking point of the game came after 2 minutes, when Owen Farrell went high on Anthony Watson, giving a penalty to Bath, but should it have been more? The crowd near us wanted yellow,(to be fair, they wanted a yellow for everything, offsides, high tackles, forward passes, breathing, wearing a Saracens shirt.....) Mike Ford postgame thought it was a red, myself? Well I thought a Penalty was sufficient. I've seen worse. (The citing commission gave a level 1 warning - clearly they think it wasn't too serious either) Salt was really rubbed into the wounds when some great juggling from Billy Vunipola kept the ball alive, the ball got out to Farrell who went over for a try, which he duly converted from a tricky angle and even added a penalty soon after! After all 3 scores, Farrell was roundly booed by the Bath fans around us. Around this time Watson was removed from the game for a head injury assessment due to the consquences of Farrell's tackle, replaced by Ollie Devoto. That certainly didn't thaw the relations with Farrell and the Bath fans, this move would be made permanent on the 20 minute mark. The Bath game plan at this point seemed to be to run the back row for short gains and Ford to kick the ball either long, but infield or cross kicks to Banahan, all of which seemed bizarre and totally against the style of play Bath have the reputation for this season. After 13 minutes, Bath finally tried to make a move across the backline, but Eastmond threw a pass to Batty that the hooker dropped, only to see his opposite number, Jamie George pick up and manage to hold off the pace of Joseph and Ford and ride their tackles over the line for the second try of the afternoon. This time the conversion was wide, but it was Bath 0 - Sarries 13 and the game was still young! A scrum penalty at the 20 minute mark gave Farrell his 11th point of the match and gave Sarries a dominant looking 0-16 lead! Plenty of handling errors saw the game become slightly disjointed, but Bath managed to spread the ball out to Semisa Rokodunguni who chipped ahead and was bodychecked by Alex Goode, the TMO was consulted but the penalty deemed sufficient, and the kick was duly dispatched by George Ford for Bath's first points of the game. Just as it looked like Bath could finally get a foothold on the game, Duncan Taylor made an intercept as Bath looked to spread the play wide, and the eventual pass to David Strettle was slightly behind him, but an outrageous heel flick into his own hands started a chain of events that saw Chris Wyles go over for try number 3, Farrell again provided the conversion for a 3 - 22 lead to Saracens The final score of the half was another Farrell penalty after David Wilson was found guilty of holding on to Maro Itoje as the Saracens man tried to burst into the Bath 22, it was duly dispatched and at half time, the score was 3 - 25! The second half began with a 40 metre rolling maul by Saracens, but as they tried to spread the ball wide, it was dropped by Itoje. At the resulting scrum, the West Country side were awarded a penalty which was kicked deep into Sarries territory, and from the resulting lineout, Farrell was again guilty of a high tackle on Joseph, perhaps harshly this time as JJ was ducking, but Ford slotted the easy three pointer for a 6 - 25 scoreline. The solid start to the second half seemed to light a fire under Bath, who started to look dangerous on every attack, and a solid set of phases saw Joseph dummy and step into a seemingly impossible gap and round 3 defenders for Bath's first try, which Ford converted, and with over 25 minutes left to play, it was game on. A series of odd substitutions seemed to break the momentum Bath had built up. Attwood and Hooper had been superb all game, but both got the hook within a few minutes of each other for Day and Garvey's introduction. On the hour mark, however, a penalty at the lineout saw Ford slot another penalty and close the gap to 16 - 25. Chris Ashton was bought on, which brought out more pantomime booing from the Bath fans and then inexplicably, Bath withdrew Leroy Houston for Carl Fearns, despite Houston (and Louw) being superb, but Sam Burgess often looking lost, and as was pointed out by Debbie Knight (another #BloggersBencher) his lack of positioning often leaves him in the way of his team mates, but Bath made their choice and kept Sam on over Houston. Back to the game, another Bath offside led to a vital Owen Farrell 3 pointer to give Saracens a 12 point cushion, again, Farrell was booed and whistled during the kick, but slotted it easily. 16 - 28, 15 minutes left! The rest of the match was pretty much Bath pushing Saracens and Saracens holding firm. There were a few good Bath half breaks, but the Wolfpack were in no mood to let any more points go on the bored, and this coupled with some more wayward Ford kicking, including a missed touch kick from a penalty, the cardinal sin of a fly half! Ford's shaky game (although perfect place kick ratio) was compounded by Farrell being named Man of the Match, he had a far more composed all round game than Ford, racking up 18 points, so if the game was the World cup audition that many people claimed, it's certainly 1 - 0 to Owen! There were some shenanigans with a broken clock, so every stoppage for the last 5 minutes could've been the last play of the game, but that whistle came eventually and Saracens were once again the English champions, mainly due to the dominant first half and some solid defence in the second half!   Post game, us #Bloggersbenchers made our way to the official press conference , I won't write it up here, I think most of it has been covered in mainstream media, but I will say what a calm guy Mark McCall is and what a bloody nice chap Owen Farrell came across as. I had a wander back into town with Matt (Bathbytes) then took an unplanned tour of London on my way home, but that's a travel tale for another time and place though! Many thanks to all the fine people at Prem Rugby for making the day happen, especially Paul Morgan, Sophie Neal and our guide for the day, Bea Asprey. And thanks to all the other, numerous Bloggers Bench writers for making the day so much fun, and providing some great discussion on numerous subjects..... that may well appear in another blog on another day!