With a busy week full of cricket this is going to be more about the photos than the words.
The final home game of the ‘standard’ season saw Bristol visiting Allianz Park, they’d battled for several years to get into the Premiership, finishing top of the league only to fail in the play offs. That was put right in the 2015/16 season and they were back!
I visited Ashton Gate earlier in the season and was highly impressed with the stadium and the welcome, so much so I went back for the Harlequins match later in the year. A Rose Army friend, Andrew was a great host and I was pleased to meet him in return when he travelled up with his 2 children Hetty and Arthur.
We managed to reserve a table at The Metro, the restaurant literally next door to Allianz Park, you’ll struggle to find a better pasta. Good company and delicious food, what more could you want pre-match. We made our way into the stadium, this final game was a day to raise funds for the Saracens Sports Foundation. My good friends with the Saracens Supporters Association had a board draw set up and managed to raise £300, in total over £27,000 was raised for this great, life changing charity! They were the real winners on the day as were all the people helped by their valuable work.
Would Saracens be winners too, Harlequins had caused something of a shock at the top in beating leaders Wasps, Exeter Chiefs and Saracens had a chance to capitalise. I have to say the first half probably wasn’t what most people in the ground expected. It was an error strewn half for the home team and thanks to 3 Gavin Henson penalties to 1 Owen Farrell penalty Bristol went in at half time in the lead. Chris Ashton had had a try disallowed during the half, but other than that Saracens hadn’t looked likely to score at all. Bristol were good value for their lead.
I think some sort of rocket where the sun doesn’t shine happened in the home dressing room at half time, the 9 points Bristol scored in that first half were to be the only ones they managed in the game. Petrus du Plessis a man fully conversant in the world of social media had posed a video that morning chatting to Jim Hamilton promising his first ever try. He must have had some sort of premonition, because he scored 2!
Petrus is London Irish bound so this was a great way to sign off at Allianz Park, 2 great Saracens players, Neil de Kock and Kelly Brown were also playing their last game at Allianz Park before both head to retirement, they both got the accolades they deserved from the crowd and fellow players. It was heart warming to see the Bristol players clap as they were both substituted.
The Saracens backs had something to say in the game and Chris Ashton got his try after some running rugby, he went over in the corner before Nick Tompkins scored. Petrus’s second was the vital 4th try to get the bonus point win. The score finished on Saracens 27 Bristol 9.
I have to credit Andrew in particular, it’s been a very difficult season for his Bristol with 21 games played and only 3 won, and a points difference of -313 his passion for his home town team has never wavered, it remains vocal and I’m really glad he had the chance to brandish his Big Flag during the first half of this game. Hetty and Arthur also had the chance to present a card to their departing favourite Jamal Ford-Robinson, they’re a real delight, it was great to see their smiles at having seen Jamal. I wish Bristol every success next season and hope to see them back in 2018.