April 4 2012
Over many a year of following London Irish across the length and breadth of England and beyond, I have been fortunate to experience many an excellent trip. The rugby is the reason for arranging the trip in the first place – but it often becomes a secondary (or even a thirdary) part of a great day out or weekend adventure.
I had been looking forward to the excursion down to Exeter well in advance, I had ordered tickets direct from Exeter (as LI add a £2 per ticket booking fee, it is often cheaper to buy direct). The tickets arrived along with a leaflet listing the many gastronomic delights that awaited us at Sandy Park – award winning sausages, jumbo pasties, hog roast, homemade curry, award winning pie & mash, homemade burgers …. I don’t know about the rugby match, but I was certainly looking forward to the food (does anyone ever say that about a trip to the MadStad?).
I headed down to Devon on the Friday afternoon, staying in a nice little B&B in Exmouth. I spent a very pleasant late afternoon/early evening walking along the seafront and taking a few photos. I stayed on the seafront until after the sun had set.
Then off to find some fish and chips – I always find that fish and chips taste better when eaten by the coast.
Saturday started with a very nice full English breakfast. Having headed east along the coast on Friday, I now headed in the opposite direction to explore the harbour and Exe estuary. The weather had clouded over during the night, so it was not as good for photography as the Friday evening had been – but hopefully I still managed to capture some good views across the Exe towards Starcross and Dawlish Warren.
I headed back to the B&B for a cup of tea and then it was off to Sandy Park. Sandy Park is a new stadium, built a few miles out from the city and close to a motorway junction – but any similarities with the MadStad end there. There are plenty of bars and food outlets scattered around the stadium, catering for all tastes. I opted for the hog roast, which was pretty good.
Most of the stands and Sandy Park appear temporary in their design, so I would expect there will be a fair amount of development over the coming years as more permanent structures are built. One odd thing about a stadium so close to the motorway is the lack of parking – not a problem for me, I travelled by train, it is a 10 minute walk for the nearest station.
Post-match a group of the usual suspects gathered in the Undercroft bar for a debriefing of the afternoons events (and we may have consumed a beer or 3) and we also entertained our hosts with a few traditional songs. We moved on to one of the bars in the grandstand to listen to a band (and it is possible a further beer was involved). Then we headed by bus into Exeter – it was a lively bus journey as we regaled our fellow travellers with what I am led to believe are some traditional songs for such occasions – I thought I knew most of the words to Yesterday, but I guess that the extra verses that I wasn’t previously aware of must be from the extended 12” mega-mix, album version of the song. For reasons of copyright and decency I cannot repeat any of the additional verses.
Many of the usual suspects were staying at Jury’s, so that was the first destination in town, and a little later we moved on to a local hostelry. As I had to get the train back to Exmouth, I departed at a fairly sensible hour having only consumed a fairly sensible amount of beer. I’m sure those who remained will be able to fill you in on anything that occurred after my departure, although I expect they just finished their beer and then returned to their hotels to get a good night’s sleep.
Sunday morning, and another very nice full English breakfast, which was much needed as I somehow forgot to have anything to eat on the Saturday evening. I then headed off the meet friends in Dawlish. I had a few minutes to wait for the train out of Exmouth, so I took in the view from the station car park.
As I had done the Dawlish seafront on last season’s visit, so we headed out onto the moors, stopping off at Haytor
Back to Dawlish for a cup of tea and the idea was then to head to Dawlish station and the train home – however we found the police had cordoned off the centre of Dawlish due to a suspect package, the cordoned off area included the railway line, so there was major disruption to train services. My friends kindly offered to take me to Exeter, from where I was able to make my journey home without any further disruption.
Oops – almost forgot, there was a rugby match. Following on from our performance against Leicester in our Paddy’s Day match, there was much reason for optimism, another similar performance and we had every chance of winning. Unfortunately it was not to be, it was a largely forgettable match in which we were second best for much of the time. Early on we had more of the possession, but it was all in our own half. Ignacio Mieres put the Chiefs ahead with a penalty after 8 minutes, Tom Homer replied 6 minutes later. Mieres put Exeter back in front with another penalty at the mid-point of the first half. Exeter went further ahead with the first try of the match just before half time, having secured line-out ball, the Chiefs went through a few phases and James Hanks went over to score, Mieres converted to give Exeter a 13-3 lead at the break.
We responded with a try about 10 minutes into the second half – as the action was at the far end from where I was standing, I don’t know the exact details of what happened, but a kick through (I think from Adrian Jarvis) evaded a couple of Exeter players and bounced nicely for Tom to collect and touch down in the corner – however his conversion attempt from close to the touchline was off target. About 5 minutes later Tom converted a penalty and we were back within 2 points.
A try from Gonzalo Camacho extended Exeter’s lead, fortunately for us, the conversion attempt was one of a number of misses from Mieres’ boot – so we remained in bonus point territory. Despite having a fair amount of possession in the Exeter half in the closing minutes there were no further scores, Exeter running out 18-11 winners.
Not a great performance from us – the effort was there but the application was lacking. Our season isn’t quite over – I can’t see Newcastle winning their 3 remaining matches and securing 2 try bonuses, so relegation is not an issue. We are 6 points down on 6th place, so next season’s Heineken cup is still just about reachable, although on current form unlikely.
Anyway, as I like to do, I’ll finish on a positive note – I had a great weekend, a little walking along the coast and on the moors, I have plenty of photographs to sort through over the next few days, some good food and a few beers consumed, great company, catching up with friends and even a bomb scare – what more could I want?
I hope that all who made the trip down the Exeter enjoyed their day/weekend – I’m already looking forward to next season’s trip, I think I might try the award winning sausages next time.
As I mentioned at the start, the rugby was the reason for arranging the trip – but this was one of those occasions when it became a secondary part of a great weekend.