Twickenham Stoop

Ground No. 11
Visited - Sunday 8th June 2008
Result - Harlequins 24-40 Warrington Wolves
Competition - Super League
Attendance - 3622

Rugby League in London has had a somewhat nomadic history in recent years. Dating back to the 1930’s, the game has a long timeline in the capital, but it was the football club, Fulham FC, who really bought it to prominence in 1980 when they formed an RL side bearing their name as a way to raise extra cash.

They started off with some impressive results in showpiece games, drawing crowds of up to 15,000 to Craven Cottage, but the experiment was soon cut short once the funds expected to be generated failed to materialise. It was up to fans from then on to keep the club going, and in a tumultuous 20 years, they went through numerous name changes and even more venues in an effort to find a base, until the latest rebrand in 2005 when Rugby Union side Harlequins took them under their wing, adopting the famous quartered jerseys and colours of light blue, magenta, chocolate and French grey with black/green arms. Having relocated from Griffin Park to Quins’ home ground, The Stoop, then this added a new venue to Super League’s list, and it was one I was looking forward to visiting, choosing the game against Warrington to make the trip south.

The journey down to London went smoothly enough, arriving in just after midday, and from Euston I made my way straight down to the ground, finding it without any difficulties, having passed by 10 months previously on the way back from the Challenge Cup Final at Twickenham.

Officially named ‘Twickenham Stoop’, the ground sits right in the shadow of its bigger neighbour. Just a few years ago there had been little more than a small stand and pitch, but some real money had been spent on it recently, and from the outside it looks particularly smart, with the East Stand and its unique roof attracting attention.

After going in (pleasantly surprised to find that they’d reduced prices for this game!) then the smart feel of the place continues. You’re able to walk around the entire perimeter, even though the turnstiles sell tickets for particular stands. Immediately on the inside is a statue of Union legend Nick Duncombe, the England scrum-half who died tragically young, aged just 21. To his right is the North Stand, a covered temporary stand that is mirrored opposite, although for todays game both were closed. The West Stand takes up the near side, whilst opposite is the East Stand. Both are single-tiered all seaters, with the East Stand arcing away from the pitch, reminiscent of the side stands at Molineux that were designed as such to give people in the wings a better view instead of getting neck ache through constantly having to turn their heads! After taking some pictures, and watching some of the youth fixture going on, then I eventually retired to the big bar underneath the West Stand, which despite being absolutely huge, seems to have very few seats for anyone to actually sit down!

Eventually it was time for the game, and I chose to sit with the Wire fans in the East Stand, who were cheering early on when Chris Riley gave them a deserved lead on 15 minutes, with Chris Hicks adding the two. They doubled the lead soon after thanks to Louis Anderson who finished a good move, but if Warrington thought they were coasting to half time, then they were soon put in their place when Tony Clubb and Michael Worrincy both scored in quick succession. Robert Purdham converted both efforts to level things bang on the half-time hooter and give the home fans something to cheer about during the break.

Wire were still without a permanent manager, Paul Cullen having stepped down a few weeks previously after a bad start to the season, but caretaker coach Jimmy Lowes did his hopes of taking over no harm at all with a presumably inspired half-time teamtalk, the Lancastrian side coming out and running up four tries in 20 minutes with Martin Gleeson, Michael Monaghan, Matt King and Jon Clarke all going over to effectively kill the game, but the hosts comeback in the first half was still fresh in the memory for the away fans, and when Gareth Haggerty’s 63rd minute try was followed up six minutes later by a superb long distance run from Rikki Sheriffe, then an unlikely upset looked possible, but Chris Riley settled the visitors nerves when he got his second of the afternoon in the 80th minute, which with the conversion missed ended the scoring with a 24-40 win for Warrington.

After leaving, I made my way back home in a good mood, glad to have come. The ground itself is a great place to visit, even with a smaller crowd in like today, the 3622 who had turned up having witnessed an entertaining encounter. Despite the numbers, one thing that was notable was how family orientated the day was, and with the message from the club seeming to be one of adopting a long term stance then perhaps you can see it working with a seemingly large part of the crowd made up of enthusiastic youngsters. With any luck, then hopefully it does work out for them, because this seems a great base for RL in the capital and another rebrand a few years down the line will do no-one any favours, least of all the image of a game now sitting deep inside what was once enemy territory! 

Welcome to the Stoop

Rear of the East Stand

Rear of the East Stand

Rear of the North Stand


The Nick Duncombe Statue

The Club Shop

Rear of the West Stand

Rear of the South Stand

The West Stand

The South Stand

The East Stand

The North Stand

Ready for Kick Off

The West Stand

The Stoop Panoramic


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