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The Final - A Neutrals Perspective
Posted by southstander on August 29 2006 - 15:01:44


Like many of you I attended London over the weekend as an interested neutral.

Still reeling from the shock of our Challenge Cup exit at the hands of the Huddersfield Giants we set off for the big smoke with our Wembl...Twickenham tickets grasped firmly in our sticky mits.

I opted not to go for Leeds colours as there was no point in bringing on further ridicule, but all credit to the hundreds of you who were wearing Blue & Amber, and proudly so.

The journey from Waterloo to Twickenham was fairly painless, despite the twenty minutes queue for train tickets. The Rugby Special was modern and pleasant enough and myself and Mrs even managed to get a seat, although we were bored senseless by a guy in an England Rugby Union shirt telling us it was grim up north on one hand whilst bemoaning the £1,500 a month he was paying in rent for a shoe box.

Getting from the station was another matter. Firstly we had to negotiate the vomitting yodeler, obviously one too many 'Klosterbräus'. Then we were cheek to jowl with the great unwashed avoiding some particularly vociferous special constables who typified the current British Nanny state by instructing us to walk on the pavement or we would be 'run over'.

Once at the stadium (a good twenty minutes walk in heavy human traffic) we managed to meet up with a couple of nervous Giants mates who eventually admitted that they were probably in for a good beating. In the end we gave up battling through the never moving queues in the beer tent and observed that is would have been quicker to get a shave than a pint.

Ingress into the ground was incident free and fast, despite the obligatory security guard fumble through Mrs SS.coms ample 'handbag'. What he was looking for, I have no idea, but Mrs obviously didn't fall into your typical 'stadium bomber' profile as he paid scant attention to his search.

The stadium, resembling a modern multi-storey car park, was easy to find your way around and what a pleasant surprise when there was no queue whatsoever for beer, on any of the three occasions I went sate my pre-match thirst. We looked around for familiar faces but didn't find any so with twenty-minutes remaining went to our seats (rather disappointingly positioned after originally being given seats near the forty-metre line at Wembley). The seats were typically small making me contemplate further whether all stadium designers are actually midgets. Surely there must be some EC guideline about this!

The game was over in what seemed an instant, but with far less disruption that I've had at previous rugby events. Perhaps the stopping serving of beer thirty minutes before kick-off helped. I thought Hudderfield did incredibly well for the first twenty minutes but it was obvious that they couldn't keep it up, and that Saints were far too strong for them.

We decided to join the Wigan supporters in piling out a few minutes before the end to get to the train station and avoid the crush. Hundreds had a similar idea and we only just made it onto the first 'special' back to Waterloo which had standing room only. The atmosphere was good, with most people disappointed that the Giants hadn't made more of a game of it. On reflection I am glad it wasn't the Rhinos as we could have taken an even bigger hammering on recent form.

We were back at Waterloo for half-past five and headed off into London to enjoy the evening.

This was my first attendance at a Cup Final as a neutral and I did feel very uneasy about not having a side to support. Having said that, the Saints side would have easily beaten the Rhinos and I'd have spent the rest of the weekend sulking. We had a good trip, but the highlights were of London and not of the eighty minutes at the home of Rugby Union.

Will I go again next year? Only if the Rhinos are there!

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