Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Big Game: Rugby’s Christmas Party at Twickenham

Posted on 14 December 2018 by Robert Sutton

Since 2008, the showpiece event in the rugby union calendar over the festive period has come at Twickenham.

For one day, Harlequins take a home game across the A316 from the Stoop to the home of English rugby.

“Big Game” was the brainchild of the Harlequins board who had seen Stade Francais sell out the Stade de France for a Heineken Cup clash between the two sides. Capacity at Twickenham was limited to 50,000 for the first Big Game in 2008 because of issues with public transport.

Quins sold all available tickets and the crowd were treated to a thrilling 26-26 draw against Leicester Tigers.

A rugby tradition was born for fans of all clubs, not just Harlequins.

I have attended a number of Big Games and here are some of the highlights from down the years.

Big Game 2: Harlequins 20 – 21 Wasps (2009)

The second Big Game saw Harlequins break the attendance record for a club rugby match (76,716). However, it ended in defeat to then then London Wasps, who won more comfortably than the scoreline suggests.

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The game is probably best remembered for showcasing what happens when pre-match entertainment goes wrong, as an eagle, delivering the matchball, crashed into the upper tier of the South Stand.

Big Game 5: Harlequins 26-15 London Irish (2012)

As defending Premiership champions, Harlequins sold out Twickenham for the first time and an attendance of 82,000 remains the highest for a club match in the stadium’s history.

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After a tight first half, Quins pulled away in the second. Danny Care scored a clever try and the forward dominance over a struggling Irish side was rewarded with a penalty try.

Big Game 7:  Harlequins 25-30 Northampton Saints (2014)

A cracking contest saw Quins push reigning champions Northampton all the way in front of another sell out crowd.

Harlequins had over 65% possession, but they were unable to break down a superb Saints defence.

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Northampton then scored two breakaway tries in the second half to seal an important win on their way to finishing top of the table at the end of the regular season.

Big Game 8: Harlequins 39-39 Gloucester (2015)

English rugby fans looking for something to cheer following a dismal World Cup were not disappointed by Big Game 8 as Harlequins and Gloucester shared ten tries.

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Gloucester had led by 13 points with just a quarter of an hour left, but Quins produced a stirring comeback with Ross Chisholm crossing for the crucial fifth try. Nick Evans landed a touchline conversion to secure a draw.

Big Game 10: Harlequins 50-21 Northampton Saints (2017)

The highlight of a bleak 2017/18 campaign for Harlequins was this demolition of Northampton in front of 78,000.

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Inspired by ‘Man of the Match’ Marcus Smith, Quins led 31-0 at half time and eventually scored seven tries to inflict a seventh straight defeat on the Saints.

Big Game 11 will be between Harlequins and Wasps on December 29th, with both sides right in the mix to qualify for the Gallagher Premiership playoffs and it should be another memorable Twickenham occasion.

Featured photograph/Harlequins