Competition: Champion’s Cup Semi Final

Date: 4 May 2024

Result: Leinster 20 – 17 Northampton Saints

Tickets:  €26 (Hill 16 adult)

Attendance: 82,300

Game/ Experience Rating:  ☆☆☆☆

The Game: If you’re a regular reader of ‘Groundhopping’ (as if), you might know that it’s almost all about football, which makes this a bit of an aside, but I couldn’t resist the chance to see a high level rugby match from the iconic HIll 16 for less than €30. The game itself was actually not great – Leinster were utterly dominant for roughly the first hour, making for little in the way of contest, with James Lowe and Jamison Gibson-Park controlling the game. They lead by double digits for the bulk of the game.

Northampton woke up a bit in the second half, creating a tense atmosphere that felt a little bit unnecessary given the dominance Leinster had held throughout. Northampton got back within a kick and even held the ball – although in their own half – in the dying two minutes where a kick would have levelled up the game, but ended up giving it away. A good, close contest that didn’t seem like it would be a good, close contest for the majority of its lifespan.

The ground:  As a former Dublin football (GAA) season ticket holder, I’ve spent quite a lot of time in Croke Park, and it’s one hell of a place, just for the sheer scale of it. Hill 16, where I was stood, is an odd part of the ground on the face of it, an undeveloped terrace surrounded by massive stands that has some very substantial history connected to the formation of the State.

The atmosphere was decent throughout, and I was quite taken with the efforts of the Leinster mascot to pump it all up – unusually effective. At times, the aisles of the stand were crammed and the stewards had little interest, which felt uncomfortable and in some ways bordering on dangerous. It seemed to clear itself up in the second half. A phenomenal spot that’s rarely used for rugby or football, so you have to take the chance when it arises.

Extras: €8 for a medicore programme felt a bit much, but I guess it was a Champion’s Cup semi final. That aside, I didn’t really explore – the nature of Hill 16 is you have to hold on to your space or you end up shunted somewhere inconvenient (and honestly, watching rugby end on is not ideal in the first place).

Assorted asides: There is something genuinely quite funny about the cliche of Leinster fans and the north side of Dublin. I thought it was tongue in cheek, but quite a few looked genuinely quite uncomfortable, and I overheard one making quite a lot of noise about how he’d never be back unless Leinster play in Croke Park again. It’s just a stadium and a less affluent part of the city, lads.


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