Laszlo Geczo/INPHO
new ground

Leinster fans out in force on remarkable occasion at Spurs' home

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is an impressive spot and it hosted a brilliant game.

POCKETS OF LONDON were blue today as Leinster’s fans showed up in force but soon after the final whistle at the impressive Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, you got a real sense of how many Stade Toulousain supporters had turned up.

The French club’s fans flooded to the bottom of the stands to roar and salute as Toulouse’s players did a well-earned lap of honour.

Meanwhile, back home in Toulouse, there were thousands upon thousands of locals bouncing in Place du Capitole as they celebrated their beloved club’s record sixth Champions Cup crown. Those scenes showed just how important Stade Toulousain are to the entire city. 

After making 238 tackles between them in a brilliant defensive performance, it was almost a surprise Ugo Mola’s men had enough juice in their legs to do the full lap in London.

Blair Kinghorn, so excellent at fullback for Toulouse, couldn’t resist leaping on top of the zebra statue in the middle of the pitch after they had lifted the trophy, while Joe Tekori continued a time-honoured tradition of grabbing the corner flags.

The last corner Toulouse passed was where Leinster had gathered to watch the trophy lift. Some of them sat on the ground, weary and upset, while others stood discussing the details of another Champions Cup final defeat.

Captain Caelan Doris moved to lead Leinster on their own mini-tour of appreciation for Leinster fans before realising that nearly all of them were already gone. You could understand the swift exit. Some had to race for flights after extra time left them in danger of missing departure, others probably just needed to get away from the latest scene of disappointment.

the-two-teams-come-out-to-start-the-game The pre-match show was spectacular. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

To their credit, Leinster fans contributed to a remarkable occasion. Their team lost but it was an incredibly entertaining game of rugby. This will surely go down as one of the greatest club finals ever. 

The kick-off time of 2.45pm meant the pre-match scenes outside the stadium were less boozy than is often the case, but that didn’t mean the place wasn’t hopping as game time drew nearer.

Piling in were lots of blue jerseys for Leinster as well as the red and black of Toulouse, but the usual rainbow of colours you see at Champions Cup finals.

Among the jerseys we spotted were more than a few Munster ones, as well as Connacht, Ulster, La Rochelle, Northampton, and Racing. There were also the usual groups of friends from amateur clubs making a weekend of it. 

The pre-match show was spectacular, building to a crescendo in the minutes before kick-off. Fireworks, coloured flares, legions of drummers in both clubs’ colours, and gigantic flags – it was a big show without being too much.

All in all, the decision to bring this Champions Cup final to Spurs’ home ground felt vindicated. Opened in 2019 after a rebuild of White Hart Lane that cost in the region of £1 billion, it is a world-class venue.

Reminiscent of the Velodrome in Marseille, the big bowl architecture means it feels like every seat in the house has a good view. The south stand is particularly imposing, rising steeply without any tiering to hold a 17,000 share of the overall 62,850 capacity. It’s the home end when Spurs play and must be imposing for visiting teams.

The fact that all corners are fully enclosed seems to add to the volume of the place, the noise bouncing around the place without filtering out. It also feels like the stands are right on top of the pitch, very much in on the action.

a-general-view-of-the-tottenham-hotspur-stadium-before-the-game Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

The pitch was tight for rugby, only 95 metres in length compared to the 100 metres in many rugby stadiums. The in-goal areas were noticeably short, while it seemed there was little room near the touchlines. Romain Ntamack wanted to take a quick lineout at one stage but smashed into a Toulouse backroom staff member as he caught the ball.

The stadium wasn’t completely full today as 61,531 people turned up but it looked the part. The media experience was extremely smooth, while reports from punters suggest it was similar for paying supporters. This stadium, the biggest club ground in London, is renowned for the quality of its food and drink offerings. They have the pints that they fill from the bottom, we were told a few times.

The pitch Leinster and Toulouse played on today is fully retractable, with an NFL pitch underneath. Spurs built it as the home of the NFL in London, a clever long-term plan even if it added a serious layer to the cost of the rebuild.

The football pitch also retracts for the concerts held regularly at the stadium, another money-making venture, while they’ve hosted boxing fights and rugby league at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. There’s even a go-karting track under the south stand.

It’s a modern sporting stadium that serves more than one purpose and while its slick appearance is definitely at odds with the more down-to-earth Tottenham area surrounding it, you can’t but come away impressed.

Going somewhere new made this Champions Cup final more exciting, something EPCR will surely keep in mind. It’s back to familiar ground next year as the finals weekend goes to Cardiff but here’s hoping for more adventurous grounds in the future.

Leinster fans won’t have fond memories of their feelings at the final whistle, yet they’d surely agree that it was a phenomenal occasion in a great stadium.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel