We all have so many favourite moments from the European Cup that The Tig is not going to start listing personal favourites here, but the weekend in the Auvergne had everything to earn its place, other than the result of course.
Seasoned travellers may have been to the heart of the Massif Central before, this being the Tigers’ fourth visit, but there were also many new faces for a massive match in the last eight of the tournament.
They were greeted by one of the most passionate rugby cities and most emotional rugby venues on the planet.
More than that, they were welcomed with genuine warmth by the home support and shared in an incredible occasion alongside home fans who have now witnessed 75 successive wins on their own turf.
There is a genuine respect and affection between rugby supporters all over the globe of course, but there seems to be something extra from the blue and yellow army of Clermont.
A mad-keen rugby city with a team built on solid foundations rather than solely big-money signings and backed by Michelin, the region’s biggest employer, ASM have become an irresistibly consistent force in French and European rugby.
The city thronged with yellow shirts mingling with the red, white and green. Before and after the game, shirts and souvenirs were changing hands, and bars echoed to the sound of rugby opinion in two languages.
The Tig feels it was a genuine privilege to be there and share in it, harking back to the early days of European rugby and those famous nights in places like Pau and Perpignan.
The players of both teams more than played their part, Clermont tearing it up in the first half and Tigers flying right back at them in the second. A fairytale ending proved just out of reach, but it wasn’t for the want of trying.
And what about that atmosphere? The noise, the colour, the emotion that rolled down the stands.
Respect is a major factor in our game at all levels and you can’t get a much better illustration than a Clermont crowd clapping and chanting as their own kickers line up a shot at goal and the silence they offered each Tigers attempt.
Thank you ASM, thank you Heineken Cup, thank you rugby.