Leinster v Ospreys (Pro 12)
RDS Arena, Dublin
Friday 23 September (7.35pm)
House prices are booming in Dublin. One of those news reports said so. In the report the price rises were broken down into regions around the city so the people in the fast-rising areas could be all smug while the people in the poorer areas just shrug and say, “Oh well, we don’t own the house anyway.”
What the reporter didn’t say was that anyone looking for a property in Ballsbridge and surrounds should not be adverse to the odd sports stadium being on their doorstep.
Having passed the Shelbourne Park greyhound stadium I jump off the train at Lansdowne Road, where there is the impressive Aviva Stadium. The bigger rugby games are played here (Leinster v Muster in a couple of weeks for instance) but tonight it’s a short walk to the RDS Arena. And to add to the area’s sporting grounds we have more rugby venues nearby: the Donnybrook Stadium (home to Bective Rangers and Old Wesley), Merrion Road (home of rugby club Wanderers Football Club), and the ground for Old Belvedere Rugby Club, as well as Merrion Cricket Club (handily featured elsewhere on this blog), and just down the road the Elm Park Golf and Sports Club.
There is also a Tesco and the Lithuanian Embassy close, which is handy if you want to get some shopping and sort out your Baltic paperwork after a game. All in all it’s a surprise there is any room left for houses in Dublin 4.
Ospreys are top of the Guinness Pro12 table at the kick off but Leinster tear into them in the first 20 minutes with pure intensity and pace. Josh van der Flier picks up a try and with Ireland’s star kicker Jonny Sexton converts this to add points to his earlier penalty to leave the Welsh side trailing by double digits. Frustration builds and the big, bearded Moldovan Dmitri Arhip, not a man you’d pick a fight with, high challenges Isa Ncewa and is sin binned.
The grandstand, with Bedouin tent-style roofing, was rebuilt in 2006 when Leinster moved to the RDS Arena. The South Stand, as seen from the 1927 Anglesea Stand, is for fans who like a bit of fresh air with their evening rugby.
“Gron Leinster, gron,” growls the old man behind me. And he gets his way as continued pressure leads to a penalty try in the corner of the pitch farthest from me. Luckily the big screen keeps rolling during the game (unlike at football matches) so all is good on the viewing front. Super Jonny adds another try to ensure the Guinness goes down well at half-time.
I like the RDS Arena. The oval grassy area, used for equestrian events, provides a nice open feel at the rear of the Angelsea Stand that not even the best newly built stadiums can match. The openess creates a relaxed atmosphere as fans mill around the food and drink stands, situated on the walkways along the edge of the equestrian area, eating, drinking and discussing the game. A lot of them are still there when Van der Flier adds more points to the Leinster total a few minutes into the second half.
The old guy is still growling “Gron Leinster, gron,” when I get back inside the stadium. But his magic has deserted him and Ospreys grab a try and super Jonny gets a yellow card as Leinster lose focus. The Swansea-based side hit two more late tries which just intensifies his growling, although it does make the last few minutes of the match moderately more exciting if the higher pitch of his “grons” are anything to go by.
Ticket: Anglesea terrace €22 (including the €2 Ticketmaster fee).
Drink: Smithwick’s red ale (€5.10 a pint) in Crowes pub on Merrion Road and a Guinness (€5.40 a pint) in the ground.
Getting there: DART to either Lansdowne Road or Sandymount.
Score: Leinster 31 Ospreys 19.