Tigers, having not played particularly badly or particularly well, were trailing 20-6 on a dark and grey day at Twickenham when it happened. The typhoon, the hurricane, the apocalypse.
Heavy rain fell, or rather blew, for about 15 minutes and then the wind gripped one corner of the ground and gave it a foreboding shake. Bits fell off the control tower and on to the pitch, advertising hoardings staged a pitch invasion of their own and the referee gathered the players in the centre of the pitch before leading them off, stopping on the touchline only long enough for an early final whistle and handshakes.
It was not what we had envisaged on the way down to Twickenham, with memories still bright of a winning performance there by a young Tigers team in the same LV= Cup competition just a couple of years ago. It was the day Andy Forsyth and Alex Lewington scored eye-catching tries and Logo Mulipola made a sizeable impression in the front row.
Richard Cockerill seemed to have little complaint afterwards, saying “paramount is supporter safety” but a team of players all short of game-time were denied an extra 10 minutes digging into their energy reserves.
Forgetting the safety argument for a moment, you could also argue that the early whistle deprived players and supporters of Tigers’ best parts of the season so far.
If we’d finished on the 70-minute mark more regularly this season we’d have missed Ed Slater’s try and the 10-point fightback against Saints and Jamie Gibson’s try and the fightback against Bath.
We’d also have denied Adam Thompstone a bonus-point score at home to Treviso and Miles Benjamin a bonus-point score away to the Italians, the Owen Williams penalty against Ulster at Ravenhill, the Ryan Lamb drop goal which denied Montpellier a consolation at Welford Road and a penalty try in the home defeat by Quins which rescued a bonus point.
That’s even before the heart-stopping last 10 minutes against Montpellier when we rose as one in the stands to acclaim Vereniki Goneva’s last-gasp break on the right, gasped as he kept his calm amid the mayhem, then celebrated as he finally dotted down just behind the posts. The conversion followed, not to mention a few jittery moments after turning over ball with the clock ticking down.
Still, better late than never.