with David Fothergill

If you think that Perpignan Airport becomes crowded as soon as more than one aircraft is on the tarmac, then you should have been there at 3am on Sunday morning.

The British daily paper, the i, reported that from wall to wall the tiny terminal heaved with humanity and shook with song’.

For those of you not familiar with Rugby League (that’s the one with 13 players – ’rugby à treize’), this excitement was caused by the return of the victorious Perpignan Catalan Dragons from Heathrow.

The French have a tendency to overuse the adjective ‘exception’, but for once it was apposite because on Saturday afternoon the Dragons had become the first non-English team to win the Challenge Cup since it was inaugurated 121 years ago. At Wembley Stadium they beat Warrington 20-14 in a deserved victory albeit that the last 15 minutes were dangerous for those with blood pressure problems.

The BBC1 coverage of the game used a simple map to explain where Perpignan is and made it clear that although we’re in the South of France we’re at ‘the hard-working end’.

So, a double-whammy for Perpignan, as USAP, the Rugby Union team (that’s the one with 15 players rugby à quinze’) achieved promotion back into the top division in May.

Allez Les Perpignanais!


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