April 13 2012
ExTeddChief pens a Stade report.
Mugged in Paris
OK, I am a veteran of two trips to Eastern Europe following the Great Britain basketball team, the last one involving hanging around at Vilnius airport wondering how I was going to get home. Prior to last week though I had never been on a Chiefs away trip. Now however there was an Amlin Cup quarter final match against Stade Francais to get to. Flybe were taking us to the cleaners flying out from Exeter so Southampton airport was now the target. It meant less than 24 hours in the French capital to save money but it would work.
So, Thursday morning. Accross the road to Central to catch the 9:30 towards Waterloo, get off at Baisingstoke and wait half an hour for a train to Southampton airport that doesn’t take that long to get to it’s destination. Rucksack loaded, Chiefs hat on. Showtime.
Having never flown with Flybe before having two thin strips of paper pass for boarding passes was a bit of an eyebrow raises, having my washbag raided by security was slightly more annoying, then again I’m used to my washbag being in with the main luggage in the hold. Anyway, having gotten through that it’s off to the airport Costas for lunch then doss about at the gate with ipad waiting for a plane that took ages to get boarding. Finally we were off.
Flying with Flybe...could be worse, certainly no worse than flying with Brussels Air to Lithuania was last year. As soon as I wound my watch to CET we were at the French coast. Touchdown was smooth, didn’t need to worry about baggage just needed to pay 7 Euros for an Orlybus ticket...and then we hit the Paris rush hour. 6pm. The rest of the Tribe would have been munching somewhere with the Stade fans and I was going nowhere fast. Wind up having to change busses outside an Aussie bar to get to the stadium(though I had to yell “Ouvres la porte” at the driver a few times) then head in the general direction of the hotel, just as I’m about to give up and hail a cab I realise I’m on the right street already. One lost in translation moment with hotel staff later and I’ve checked in, dump my rucksack and have a go at catching up with the rest of the Tribe.
Well that was a fine plan. One stupid wrong turn later and I need a cab to get me back on track. Having written off the official meal I instead grab a pizza at a local greasehouse where I run into some Chiefs fans and procede to munch pizza outside a nearby pup. Everyone’s journey’s seem to have been pretty smooth and then we’re off to the arena itself. Well getting in is pretty smooth, getting to the seats...anything but. Very narrow steps and barely enough room to get past people already seated. Credit to the fellow Tribe member for helping me stay upright at times. Decide to grab a Heineken anyway, somehow made it back to seat without spillage. And then showtime.
The Chiefs were in no mood to hang around and surged into the home side from the off and on that note, we seemed to be making the only noise in the place. Credit to Stade for trying to ensure silence for the kicker but when Mieres opened the scoring it still felt a bit unreal. We weren’t done though and Stade couldn’t help but concede more pens, Mieres slotting one of them. Where were last season’s finalists and for that matter, where were their fans?
Stade weren’t done though, despite getting Felipe Contemponi binned and Julien Dupey slotted a pen after their attacking started to get results. And then we stepped it up. It looked like an obvious try from Richie but the ref and TMO had other ideas. Mieres slotted another pen anyway, Dupey grabbed a second pen before the end and even with the disallowed try, I still had that sense of unreality. We were beating one of Europe’s biggest name teams on their turf!
One toilet break later and it was time for the second half and now Stade looked to give us yokels from southwest England a reality check. Djibril Camara grabbed the first try of the game but the conversion always looked impossible. At least it allwed their fans to make some noise though. Plus Dupey slotted a pen later on.
This is the Chiefs we’re talking about though and we certainly don’t lie down on anyone’s turf and Mieres slotted another pen to prove it. Dupey replied not long afterwards though. The game looked like it would be Stade’s.
And then enter Sirelli. Our favourite Fijian is only just getting back in the swing of things but was brought on here and while Stade looked capable of keeping us at bay to start with, the big guy barrelrolled through to level the match up with the clock ticking down. The talk was now on what would happen if the scores remained level at full time. Obviously extra time, 10 minutes each way last I checked and it seemed as though that’s what we were heading for. The Chiefs were doing the attacking but Stade were just smothering us, and then out of nowhere, we lost it.
Stade fastbreaked, or to be precise Dupey set up Paul Williams for a fastbreak and what should have been the most glorious moment in the club’s history was taken away from us. Game over.
Next stop, a bar elsewhere in the Stadium where the two sets if fans exchanged songs and relived the match. I decide to ask a bunch of Stade fans what they thought and got three English words in response “we were afraid”. They were also looking forward to getting payback against Harlequins in the semis(though Toulon denied them that opportunity). On top of everything else the Stade Charlety is a drafty place but it was clearly a place where the Chiefs and Tribe had gotten a lot of attention
Eventually though it was time to head back to base, credit to Stuey and crew who allowed me to hang out with them on the walk back to the hotel, sort of credit to the Stade fans for getting them sloshed on the official meal which was apparently made up of more booze than food.
After that it was a case of hit the sack at half 1 and find myself waking up five hours later. Shower, Crossaints and apple juice before checking out, taxi to Orly, check in for flight and then less than 24 hours since leaving the UK I was back in Southampton.
A crazy trip but it was an honour to be there!
Quote:credit to Stuey and crew who allowed me to hang out with them on the walk back to the hotel