The Tig and the Tigers family have enjoyed four visits in six years and the northern Italian town has become a ‘must-see’ destination on the circuit.
Word has spread among Tigers’ travelling supporters and all will have good stories to tell of their visits on and off the rugby pitch.
The first visit was in glorious sunshine, a short-sleeved crowd boosted to 7,000 by the presence of huge ranks of Tigers supporters who outnumbered the locals. Heyneke Meyer was given a standing ovation as he walked across the pitch having cast aside the crutches for the first time since suffering an Achilles injury in his early weeks as head coach, and Johne Murphy helped himself to a hat-trick in a nine-try win.
Two years later Tigers needed a try from Alesana Tuilagi with just three minutes left on the clock to celebrate a win. It was the fifth score of the day – with Castro among the other scorers – but still resulted in only a five-point win.
A third encounter last season was even closer with one point separating the teams in torrential rain. The award of a penalty try to the home side, which bewildered most of the travelling supporters and players alike, signalled an uphill battle for the Tigers. But the team dug deep, the forward pack dug deeper and the reward was a late penalty try which secured a 14-13 victory on the way to a place in the quarter-finals.
Highlight of the day was a length-of-the-field try which would have graced any competition, any pitch, any team, any day of the week. Ben Youngs tapped a penalty virtually on his own line and scampered off on the sodden turf, and then Anthony Allen and Mathew Tait read his intent and combined wonderfully to set Adam Thompstone away to score on the left.
Then this year we experienced another intriguing day as Tigers struggled for 50 minutes and trailed by six points early in the second half before turning the game on its head.
Just when the game looked to be sliding away from the five-time European Cup finalists, Tigers dug themselves out of a hole and showed the experience and composure required to pull away. A second try of the day from Miles Benjamin, scored in the 68th minute, secured the bonus-point win which provided the bounty of a quarter-final place with a game to spare.
Visitors' book is hotels throughout this corner of Italy will tell the tales of warm hospitality, great food (accompanied by great red or white and great Prosecco), tourist visits to Venice, interminable waits for taxis as Treviso airport, the Stadio Monigo beer garden (weather permitting) and the sight of Castro being stripped of his playing kit on each visit by home fans.
Ciao for now.