Dubliner Daniel Lynch had been prepared to pay a very big price to see the game. He was standing outside Twickenham with a sign reading "One Ticket Required – Willing to forgive Martin Johnson"; a reference to the notorious red-carpet incident from another Ireland-England Slam decider, in 2003.
But despite such generosity, there had been no takers by 2.15pm, and Lynch had been there long enough in the Arctic temperatures that the quest was threatening to cost him frostbite too. Then he got lucky. As he was being interviewed by The Irish Times, an English supporter approached with a spare ticket.
Even better, in an act of Christian charity that St Patrick would have been proud of, the man (Andrew Morgan, from Richmond) was offering it at face value. He could have got several times that from one of the nearby touts. "But I wouldn't give it them," he said. Besides, as he told Lynch, and Ireland in general: "It's your party today, not ours."
He didn't know how right he was. Yes, regardless of the result, Ireland were to be crowned Six Nations champions after the game. But two hours and a magnificent performance later, Joe Schmidt's team and their supporters were celebrating a third Irish Grand Slam ever, won on March 17th, in the headquarters of English rugby.
The resultant St Patrick’s Day parade may go down as the most famous ever. Short as the route was, as small was the number of participants, the sight of 20-odd players in green shirts mounting the podium would have raised the roof of Twickenham if it had one.
It was one of those occasions when you knew that the thousands lucky enough to attend in person would be multiplied in years to come by those who will claim they were there anyway.
In fact, many who watched the game on television will be able to say there were “in Twickenham” on the day, with no word of a lie. The pubs in and around the stadium were full of supporters, mostly Irish, who couldn’t get tickets, or wouldn’t pay the exorbitant prices being asked.
Leonie Colgan and Esme Murphy, for example, had booked their flights to London 10 months ago. "It was Ireland v England on St Patrick's Day – you couldn't go wrong", explained Esme. But the significance of the game had put match tickets beyond their reach. Rather than pay several hundred pounds to a tout, they watched the game in the Duke of Cambridge pub, from which, if you stuck your head out a window, you could have heard the roars from the stadium.
The rowdier supporters in the bar included a group of young Mayo construction workers who had the shamrock well drowned even before kick-off. They celebrated each of the Irish tries with a noisy chorus of a popular song that originally included the lyrics: "She'll be coming round the mountain when she comes."
In this case it was amended to the less poetic: “You can stick your f***ing chariot up your arse”, in reference to the mythical vehicle that normally arrives to bring victorious English rugby fans home. The vehicle did not turn up on Saturday, but the Mayo men would not let the subject go.
After yet another chorus telling the locals what to do with the chariot, one of the Mayo lads waited a moment and added, with years of pent-up resentment: “We built it for ye, anyway.”