The View from the A J Bell Stadium – Sale Sharks 10 Saracens 15

Firstly a disclaimer – apologies to any regular readers of my blog who have no interest in rugby, because that, and a Premiership rugby union match in particular, is the subject of this post – If you really don’t care about the scrums or the score – look away now!

I have never been to a rugby match before, nor, to the best of my recollection, watched much rugby – union or league – on TV.

But I enjoy learning about different sports and like new experiences, so I excited that, for the second time in a week, I was given the opportunity to attend a live televised sporting event courtesy of Chester-based credit card leader mbna.

This time it was a Premiership rugby union match between mbna partner club Sale Sharks, and high-flyers Saracens, as mbna announced club sponsorship for another season.

Myself and Sophie Everett were the lucky attendees, alongside representatives from mbna, and once again received excellent hospitality from a delicious pre-match meal to being seated on the next table from rugby legend and former Question of Sport captain Bill Beaumont!

The equally legendary but truly tiny Austin Healey was there for BT Sport, while Sale young-guns Joe Ford and Andy Forsyth were on hand for pre-match analysis.

My knowledge of rugby union prior to the game was limited at best, thankfully Sophie is a fan and patiently answered my questions, which were generally some version of ‘ok, so what just happened?’.

Despite being new to the game, I quickly got caught up in the match and could feel the tension amongst the fans.

Sophie and I had met Sale’s Mark Cueto and Michael Paterson at the launch of an mbna and Sale Sharks  financial education initiative called ‘Number Cruncherz’ so were naturally focused on both players as we watched the game.

Sale looked nervous as the game got underway, facing, as they were, a revitalised Saracens team with most of their international players recalled from the six nations, and looking to erase the memory of their 22-13 defeat to London Irish.

In comparison, Sale have been on a winning streak, notching up victories throughout January and into February, and there was the feeling amongst those in the know (not me!) that this would be a close game.

As expected, Saracens put the pressure on, but some resolute defending from Sale meant that ex-Shark Charlie Hodgson’s penalty was the only thing Saracens had to show for their efforts in the first half.

Marc Jones’ try and a penalty and a conversion from Danny Cipriani  took Sale into the second half with a seven point lead but unfortunately the Sharks could not sustain the momentum, and eventually fell to a 15-10 defeat at Hodgson’s boot.

It would have been good to see a win at my first rugby union match but it was always going to be a big ask for Sale and the Sharks gave an excellent account of themselves and picked up a bonus point.

Hopefully I’ll get to go to another match soon, or get to watch another sport live and direct – I’ll keep you updated!

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