A Tale of Two Derbies
We’ve gone derby-tastic at the Saints, with two in successive weeks. This evening (March 17th) were travelling to Bedford, with the big one against Leicester coming at Franklin’s Gardens next Saturday.
The circumstances surrounding them couldn’t be more different, nor will the atmosphere in the build-up to the game.
This evening is our first game against Bedford since the summer of 2013. This game used to be one of the biggest on the calendar, with Bedford, the Saints, Leicester and Coventry making up a quartet of Midlands powerhouses that provided a stream of players to the England team. But since Bedford got relegated from the Premiership in the very early 2000s the only time we’ve met competitively is in the Saints’ season in the Championship a decade ago.
I like going to Goldington Road. It’s a proper old school venue, with one wooden stand, a clubhouse and changing room that forces the teams to run out through supporters, and a pitch that’s got so much of a slope it threatened to derail a game of giant Jenga set up between then-captains Bruce Reihana (Saints) and Matt Allen (Bedford) for a media opportunity to preview our match in September 2007.
Bedford’s free weekend was set up by London Welsh’s unfortunate demise earlier in the season, and we’re using it as a chance to give players coming back from injury some game time, as well as those who have been on the fringes of the first team for the past few weeks.
It’s all going to be very genial this evening, which is not likely to be the case at the Gardens next Saturday. Games against Leicester always seem to have something riding on them. The Anglo-Welsh Cup game at Welford Road in January was a must-win for Aaron Mauger, who had just taken over as the Tigers’ head coach, and next Saturday is a must-win for us if we want to keep up any ambitions of finishing in the top four.
With so much riding on the game you might have thought that this would ratchet up the tension off the pitch, too. After all, this is a game that has drama coursing through its veins over the past decade or so, with talking points taking over the rugby pages in the papers after each encounter. At
But while there’s plenty of emotion and desire there’s none of the baggage that comes with some of the bigger football derbies. You won’t see a police presence, supporters from both teams are not segregated from each other, and there will be plenty of drinks bought for one another before and after the action.
They’re definitely occasions to be savoured!