It happened. Having spent the best part of a year staring at the Aviva vicariously enjoying its chants, gasps and celebrations (as well as a few dodgy concerts – Olly Murs I’m coming for you), we decided we would be part of the throng to experience the Heineken Cup fixture between Leinster and Northampton. There were no designated seats and so, with no set allegiance, we just picked the seats we can see from the apartment for the reverse perspective.
It was a particularly gusty and rain swept Saturday day leading to the evening kick-off and J had resigned himself to a messy, muddy game of rugby but was looking forward to the forwards. We layered up and set off for the box office at our first home, the Ballsbridge Hotel.
Approaching the stadium was really fun, the roads had been closed off as usual and we were picking out our burger van for our after game dinner. As Leinster usually play at their 18000 capacity RDS Arena in Ballsbridge everyone (literally everyone) was enjoying the big match feel of the 50000+ Aviva stadium. Getting up to our nosebleed seats we stopped for a drink and to watch the dramatic climax to the Perpignan – Munster game which the Irish side were able to snatch in the last action of overtime.
The seats were great, just over the try line and on a slight angle towards the rest of the pitch. We could see the flat and I loved the inside sweep on the stadium and its uneven design that let you see out into the city. At €20 a ticket, I wasn’t expecting to see anything, J even brought his binos, but Northampton we’re warming up right in front of us and there was a great atmosphere. Obviously we were surrounded by Leinster supporters but the Northampton fans were making a good noise – the Saints were definitely marching in.
We were treated to a prematch show that featured fireworks, fire dancers and a blue and white Father Christmas rappelling down to his sledful of presents; on top of this, except for the fake snow, the weather had entirely cleared leaving still quite a windy but dry evening to play rugby in.
J was expecting the worst after the Saints’ 7-40 demolition the week before but a George North try, playing unusually at centre, put Leinster on the back foot from the start. It was an intense game of rugby with big tackles and missed kicks, so much better than watching football (except Liverpool J). What also makes it more fun than football was the crowd, with funny moments including the small 4-5 year old Leinster supporter behind us exclaiming as a exasperated rugby connoisseur: “Leinster – what are you doing?” or the locals tutting the embarrassing group of young englishpeople, who got increasingly drunk, who committed the gravest sin: one returning from the bar split some Guinness!
J and I ended up supporting opposite teams which heightened the frenzy that was the last five minutes. Following a Northampton drop goal (J spent the evening teaching me the lingo), they were leading 13-9 leaving Leinster needing a try. After the 80 minutes were up Leinster spent almost five minutes inches from the Northampton try line, the crowd was going mental! Just as Leinster looked like they might have space to pass the ball out a Northampton player caught the ball and ran the full length of the pitch – diagonally, tiredly and almost caught, to score a try to end a super game.
Now for the best part: leaving the stadium knowing getting home wouldn’t be a problem. As 47000 people made their way out, we stopped off at our local chippy and picked up some chips to go and, after collecting our delicious bbqed Farmer Brown burger ‘with everything in it’, we got it all home still hot to end another great day in Dublin!