A tough European Champions Cup draw for Saracens was a heaven sent opportunity for me to combine 3 of my favourite things – My lovely daughter Alexandra, Paris and Rugby! Perfect!
When the dates were announced the whole Easter weekend was given as a possibility so I booked Eurostar to travel on Good Friday, returning on the Monday. I did that reluctantly in a way as London Skolars were playing Hemel Stags on the Friday.
Closer to the weekend it was announced that Saracens would play Racing Metro on Easter Sunday – a visit to the Eurostar website and £15 later my outward journey was changed to the Saturday meaning I got my fix of Rugby League!
A30 minute drive to Ebbsfleet makes travelling to Paris so easy – and for me the only way to do it. Once through customs I bumped into 2 Saracens friends John and Sheila. We were due to be in different carriages however.
I’d chosen to make this journey in a bit more style than usual – Standard Premier – that meant a meal with wine etc. all very nice. There were lots of empty seats so I joined John, Sheila and David who’d started his journey in London.
Strangely all 3 were sitting in separate seats – but hey ho I took my seat in a single seat. We chatted a bit which was lovely and I wrote my Good Friday blog at the same time, making a sociable yet worthwhile journey.
Alex and Gautier her fiancé met us all at Gard De Nord, it’s always a lovely sight, I miss my girl, it’s always hard to leave her and great to see her again!
An afternoon chilling at Alex & Gautier’s apartment was followed by dinner at La Maison with my fellow travellers, we were joined by Alun and Sharon my good friends – also Saracens fans!
A very convivial evening with great food and company. I introduced Alun and Sharon to UBER taxis – I really recommend them for Paris. Low priced taxis that take you door to door after ordering them on an app.
Breakfast on game day consisted of pastries bought from a local Boulangerie eaten in the park accompanied by fresh orange juice, we just can’t do a chocolate croissant the same as the French! Only right I guess.
I’m slowly introducing Alex to rugby union – we watched France v Australia in the Autumn, when she said after about 10 minutes – ‘aren’t they supposed to hand the ball over after 6 tackles?’ – how funny, this Essex girl had only watched rugby league live up until that moment.
That was followed by France v Scotland in February and she enjoyed it again – so Alex and Gautier came along to Racing Metro.
The Uber taxi got us to the ground in good time – it was a very plus Peugeot 508 and cost €16 which was not bad at all.
This was my 2nd ‘club’ rugby match in France – the 1st being the Top 14 final in 2013 between Castres and Toulon. I’d loved the theatre of it all, the French know how to do atmosphere.
I’d bought our tickets through the Racing Metro website at a cost of €55 around £41.50 each, we were 6 rows from the front on the halfway line.
The profile of fans in France seems to be very different to me; the prices make it accessible to more people. There were lots of groups of young men walking to the stadium, and not too many women. Attendance by women is on the increase in England maybe not the case in France.
The atmosphere in the stadium was built by an announcer/DJ – playing some banging dance music – that suited me perfectly!
Sharon and Alun along with maybe another 500 fans had a nightmare journey to the ground, being stuck on a train for well over an hour as the train in front of them broke down. They missed the 1st 5 minutes of the game which was a real disappointment.
A little about the game, as again a match report will follow on In The Loose. I’d sen Racing Metro play Quins last year and they were well beaten. Their team of international superstars at that time were finding it hard to gel.
However this season they’ve been a different outfit in Europe and I felt it would be a big ask for Saracens to win a place in the semi-finals. It would have to be a hard fought win.
Saracens were 1st on the scoreboard with a penalty converted by Charlie Hodgson, Racing responded with a Maxime Machenaud try to the delight of the home crowd. He failed to add the extras but had out his team ahead.
It was Saracens who went in at half time with a narrow lead however as Hodgson added a further 3 points.
the 2nd half was a cagey affair – Saracens really didn’t look like scoring a try at any time and it was to be penalties that would decide the outcome. Alex Goode put Saracens further ahead before Machenaud added 2 for his team. They were 2 points ahead with 8 minutes remaining.
With a few minutes on the clock Racing attempted an up the jumper mode of play, taking the ball into contact time and again. A very dangerous tactic in our own half! The inevitable happened with virtually no time on the clock. A penalty was awarded to Saracens.
Marcelo Bosch was the man on who the result rested – he has a huge distance to his kick but isn’t always accurate – it was heart in your mouth time! Up he stepped and…… SCORED! The semi-final place was theirs! Racing Metro 11 Saracens 12 being the final score.
I leapt out of my seat as did Alex – seems she might now be a Saracens fan! A huge mention to 2 Gloucester fans who were sat behind us – Gareth Illott and Manny Thind – we had a chat before the game and they were there to support the English team – and boy Gareth in particular did just that! He was brilliant! After a fairly nasty experience at Kingsholm these 2 guys really embraced the spirit of rugby! Wonderful!
A few facts and figures –
- Cost of Ticket €41.50
- Heineken 40cl € 5.50
- Water 50cl € 3.oo
- Coffee/Tea € 2.00
- Soft Drinks € 4.00
- Sandwich € 5.oo
- Chocolate € 2.00
- Crisps € 2.00
- Best moment of the game – 2 I think – Maxime Machenaud’s try (odd from a Saracens fan) but wow that Bosch kick too! Took an age for my legs to stop shaking!
- Nicest moment of the day – Gareth and Manny – 2 true rugby fans!
- Ladies toilets – porta-loos – hmmmm, not so nice.
- Safety – totally
We took the train home in one of the snazziest carriages I’ve ever seen! A wonderful afternoon all round! Onwards go Saracens to the semi-final