I have a programme for a match at Vicarage Road between Saracens and Richmond dated August 31 1997. Why does no record of that match seem to exist? HG, England
The game would have been Saracens' first Premiership competitive match in Watford. The Allied Dunbar season opened the weekend previously (with Sarries winning away at Sale 19-10). There was a full league programme planned for the last August weekend with most of the games going ahead on the Saturday.
The Saracens match scheduled for the Sunday, however, was postponed because of the sudden death in Paris that morning of Diana, Princess of Wales. Their game with Richmond was rearranged and took place a few weeks later on the October 8 when Michael Lynagh kicked five penalties to see the Watford-based club home 15-9.
Saracens' first competitive home match at Vicarage Road was a European match against Castres in mid-September.
The late Peter Deakin's marketing nous turned Watford into an unlikely Mecca for rugby fans that season. The club, led by Tony Diprose, went on to win the RFU Tetley's Bitter Cup, trouncing Wasps 48-18 in the Final at Twickenham, and they finished runners-up in the Premiership. At one stage towards the end of the season it looked as if Francois Pienaar, Philippe Sella, Paddy Wallace, Richard Hill, Lynagh and co would win the double, but Dean Ryan and Rob Andrew at Newcastle deprived them the league title by a point.
John Griffiths is a widely respected rugby historian and is the author of several sports books, a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph and co-author of the IRB International Rugby Yearbook. He has provided insight for Scrum.com since 1999.