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Last Updated: Monday, 6 September, 2004, 14:28 GMT 15:28 UK
A fine day out
By James Standley
BBC Sport at Twickenham

Wasps' Lawrence Dallaglio is wrapped up by the Saracens cover
Lawrence Dallaglio was in the thick of the action

'Great day, shame about the rugby,' seemed to be the general consensus after the Zurich Double Header at Twickenham on Saturday.

The sun was blistering, the matches distinctly not so.

The second one, when Saracens edged out champions Wasps, was considerably better than the dire affair served up by London Irish and Harlequins in the opener.

But Wasps were a shadow of the side that powered their way to the Zurich Premiership/Heineken Cup double last season.

And although Sarries were good value for the win, they rarely got out of third gear.

The massed ranks of Irish and Saracens fans will no doubt be more than happy with the points and a solid start to their league campaigns.

But for the neutral there was little to get worked up about on the pitch, Ayoola Enrile's cracking try for Wasps and an exciting finish to the game notwithstanding.

The odd thing was that it didn't seem to really matter that the rugby was not out of the top drawer, everyone seemed to be having a great time anyway.

In the first game Ugo Monye butchered a three-man overlap which might have sparked a poor game between two average teams into life

With 51,000 turning up, Twickenham's towering stands were populated heavily enough to generate a cracking atmosphere when the action on the pitch managed to get above the pedestrian.

The wall of noise that greeted the champions' all-out attack deep into stoppage time has not, we can safely say, been bettered at any league game since the Premiership started, no matter what the inhabitants of Gloucester's infamous Shed may tell you.

And the groan that greeted Joe Worsley's failure to pass to the unmarked Peter Richards for a simple run-in that would have brought victory for Wasps had a fair few decibels behind it as well.

It was that sort of day on the pitch.

In the first game, Ugo Monye butchered a three-man overlap that might have sparked a poor game between two average teams into life.

And in the second, Mark Bartholomeusz made a wonderful slashing break and then threw an awful pass behind the flying Thomas Castaignede's right ear.

But off the pitch it could hardly have been more of a success.

Wasps centre Ayoola Erinle takes on the Saracens defence
Ayoola Erinle's try brought the crowd to their feet

The fans mingled as happily as ever, the beer flowed and the people in the east stand roasted as they sat in blazing sunshine for the entire afternoon.

And the fans' verdict?

"It was an excellent concept and a good day," said accountant Ian Hall, who was one of the many neutrals at the ground.

"But I hope those two matches are not indicative of the general standard that there is going to be in the Premiership this season."

Builder Bill Maling, a Wasps fan, said: "Top day but a bad performance from us.

"We were missing half a team and we will be a lot better than that this season.

"I'll be back next year, let's just hope we show what we can do next time."

The double header has been pencilled in for the start of the 2005-06 season and there is already talk that next time it will be a sell-out.

There are probably several reasons why Saturday's games did not catch fire, not least of them early-season rustiness and possibly trying too hard to impress the watching hordes.

Hopefully next year the action on the pitch will hit the same heights as the temperature in the stands.




SEE ALSO
Saracens 13-11 Wasps
04 Sep 04  |  English
London I 18-12 Harlequins
04 Sep 04  |  English


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