HEADING abroad at this time of year has become a popular choice for those looking for a bit of early summer sunshine.
Temperatures aren’t too high and the pubs and restaurants aren’t overrun with tourists.
Many positives alright, but at the business end of the rugby season there’s always a risk: will there be somewhere showing the match?
The Premier League fans have nothing to worry about as plenty of bars have little blackboards outside with the running order of kick off times scrawled out in chalk.
But what about the rugby?
Do the people of Ibiza not know that the final of the European Cup is on?
Are they not aware of the stakes of last year’s final rematch? Did no one tell them it could be a back-to-back victory for La Rochelle or a fifth star on Leinster’s jersey?
How could they have missed the fiery and rivalrous “Munster v Leinster”-esque build up? Do they even know who ROG is? Do they even know what rugby is?
After a 21 minute walk from one side of Ibiza town to the other, we got that horrible feeling when you’re approaching the red pin on Google maps and it seems a little quieter than what you’d expect.
“Is this the place?” Feck. Maybe that’s why they didn’t answer the four times I called.
The only online suggestion of a pub that might be showing rugby, Jack’s Irish pub: CLOSED.
With Arsenal heads filling any pub with a telly we knew we were fighting a losing battle. Similar to La Rochelle it seemed.
Having now missed the opening 12 minutes of the match I looked at the score. 17-0 to Leinster? What on earth?
Will we even bother?
By the time it took us to make the executive decision to sit in the sun with some Piña Coladas and prop a phone against a handbag on the table for viewing, Leinster had already completed the dream start to this highly anticipated Champions Cup final.
They had shaken the travelling La Rochelle to their core, deciding with their very first lineout inside 30 seconds to go with a trick-shot. Sending a dummy-pod up at the back of the lineout drew the La Rochelle players backwards and opened up an unmanned gap for Jack Conan to slice through and send Dan Sheehan over for Leinster’s first try on the 40 second mark.
Oh Leinster had done their homework alright and set up the traps for La Rochelle to fall into very early on.
After a further two tries for Leinster La Rochelle needed an answer quickly, and they found it in French centre Jonathan Danty.
Quite familiar with Leinster’s Irish contingent, Danty used his brute force to bounce off Garry Ringrose and continue forward over the line. A feeling they both might remember if Ireland meet France later this year in the Rugby World Cup.
Looking at the 27 minutes on the clock and the relentless line-speed from Leinster, I was thinking “Yes! This is the final we wanted!” They chased everything.
Showing off their fitness and smothering La Rochelle’s efforts to get anything going for most of the first half. However, O’Gara’s Rochelais were dogged enough to close the gap on the scoreboard with another try just minutes out from half-time.
As tensions were rising on the pitch it seemed to carry off the pitch too and apparently into the tunnel.
The players had already shared a few gentle fisticuffs on pitch in the first half, but it seemed that the coaches wanted in on the action too.
The European Professional Club Rugby governing body had to investigate an alleged incident in the tunnel at half-time between former Irish teammates: the Stade Rochelais coach Ronan O’ Gara; Leinster contact-skills coach Sean O’Brien and injured Leinster player Johnny Sexton. The age-old Munster-Leinster rivalry lives on.
The second half was a battle that fulfilled its cup final potential on every front. Unwavering physicality, line breaks, massive turnovers, crucial errors and bravery. No matter how many times I said to myself “that’s a game winning moment for Leinster”, La Rochelle just never gave up.
Going for the corner in the 67th minute was rewarded when La Rochelle finally went ahead by one point with the full return of a converted try.
In a bizarre few closing minutes of cards both red and yellow, Leinster could not have come closer to getting over the line and winning their fifth European title.
A game of tiny margins. You have to feel for the Leinster players who have performed out of their skin for their country and on return to their club haven’t been able to keep on the same track to silverware.
Would a drop-goal decisionhave changed the outcome?
No one will ever know.