With the missus and I moving back up north this summer (in just a few days’ time, in fact), one of the things she wanted to do before leaving London was go to Twickenham.
The first-ever World Club 7s provided the perfect opportunity. Unfortunately, the Falcons crashing at the Premiership Sevens finals in Bath a week earlier meant that our team would not be involved in TW1, so rather than the whole weekend we just went to the finals yesterday.
That turned out to be a good idea, as apart from the fact that Saturday morning was a write-off after wor lass’s leaving party on Friday night, we had a lot of DIY to do in my flat ahead of tenants moving in.
Meeting another couple of southern-based Falcons fans in the William Webb Ellis for a pre-match drink (near two lads who had apparently been out all night, though their clothes were remarkably clean if that were indeed the case), I learned that Carlin ‘The Speedster’ Isles had apparently been on good form on Saturday as his San Francisco team reached the quarter-finals.
One English team would be in the main semi-finals and another would drop into the plate as Harlequins were due to play Gloucester, though Northampton were condemned to the shield tournament.
The first game of the day was a South African derby with Western Province taking on Blue Bulls. The Bulls booked their place in the shield final against Kuban Krasnodar, the Russians keeping a clean sheet in their own game against a poor Northampton team.
The crowd was quite small at lunchtime, but grew throughout the day. There were plenty of empty seats along the sides of the West and East Stand lower tiers, I guess a lot of people wanting a day out will have gone on Saturday so they could pound a few and get rid of the hangover yesterday.
Maybe more would have had hangovers if the beer had been cheaper than £4.80 a pint (£5 for Guinness!).
In the main competition, Bienos Aires, ACT Brumbies, Harlequins and Auckland advanced to the semis, Auckland looking the strongest as they outclassed San Francisco. The Kiwis had a lot of pacy players of their own and Isles never really got a chance to show off his own speed.
Northampton’s misery was completed by a heavy defeat to Western Province, condemning the Saints to last place of the 12 teams. Krasnodar pulled off a respectable shield victory and finished ninth.
New York and Gloucester beat Saracens Moscow and San Francisco respectively in the plate semi-finals, though this time Isles did get a few chances to run and he certainly does have some speed. Incredibly, when he scored a try, a different player was initially credited with it.
ACT Brumbies, roared on by at least one vocal fan in the East Stand, turned on the style to rip top seeds Buenos Aires apart in the cup competition and were unsurprisingly joined for an all-Down Under final by Auckland, who outclassed Harlequins.
New York completed a solid weekend for the underdogs by beating Gloucester for the plate and fifth place overall, before Buenos Aires hammered Harlequins for third.
The final, unusually just seven minutes each way, looked initially to be going the way of the Brumbies. The Australians were dominant in the first half and took a 12-0 lead into the break.
Auckland came back though and two quickfire tries gave them a 12-14 advantage. However with the very last play Henry Speight broke through the Kiwi defence and secured the title for his team, with the missed conversion academic.
After almost six and a half hours of rugby, the feeling among the four of us Falcons fans was that it had been an enjoyable day with some good crowd interaction. The weather had been kind, with a mixture of cloud and sun and only a little rain early on. The players and crowd also kept a good spirit.
Perhaps in the future it might be better to play the tournament on bank holiday weekend if possible, to encourage a bigger crowd on the Sunday, although that risks more people being on holiday I suppose.
For a first go though I think the organisers can be pleased with themselves and hopefully this tournament will go on to become a big part of the rugby calendar.
(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)