Cornish Pirates: In my view by Dick Straughan – August 29
THE HAC Ground was certainly a different place to watch a game of rugby.
A short walk through the hustle and bustle of City Road in the heart of London's financial quarter and only a stone's throw from Moorgate tube station it is actually the garden of a Georgian house, although the tall glass and steel structures flanking three sides of the rugby pitch are somewhat newer.
The number of stewards deployed by Saracens into the nearby streets meant that finding the single entrance gate was almost impossible and once inside the home of the Honourable Artillery Company you stepped into a different kind of sporting world.
It was a sort of a cross between a Public School Sports Day and County Cricket at one of the venerable old Sussex or Surrey grounds.
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Posh portaloos smelling of pot pourri and with individual soap dispensers are about as alien to the kind of sporting stadia most of us visit as beer sellers wanting nearly a fiver for a standard tin of amber nectar.
In another corner a wine merchant plied suited city-types with even more expensive, although rather tempting, fine vintages from his trendy Citroen HY Van – the type which looks like an upturned corrugated pram on wheels, in case you were wondering. The Mennaye Field this was certainly not.
On the pitch we were treated to a warm-up match between the rather splendid fellows from a major high street bank and those of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.
There were thrills aplenty and, in keeping with the hugely competitive world that is the City of London, a late red card. However stamping on an opponent's head is perhaps overdoing it a tad even for traders and brokers.
Finally the rain which had blighted the Test Match on the other side of the Thames abated and on a sultry evening we were treated to a good game between the all-star heavyweights of Saracens in one corner, and the new-look hungry Pirates in the other.
In fairness the result was never going to be an issue, and it took the Premiership side less than two minutes to underline the gulf in class between their league and the Championship as Chris Ashton scythed through the Pirates defence and set up Joubert for the opening try.
Ashton had a storming game but the England man still divides opinions even among Saracens fans and his two tries on the night were only greeted by lukewarm applause.
The Cornish Pirates will not play anyone as good as Saracens again this season and should take a lot of heart from their excellent fitness levels and endless running.
Young Max Bodilly and Tom Kessell really stood out for me for their sheer hunger.
– Dick Straughan