After a stunning semi-final comeback, Harlequins did it again on Saturday at Twickenham in an all-time classic showcase finale against Exeter Chiefs, which ended 40-38 and saw Quins lift their first Premiership trophy in nine years. It was a match of huge quality, comradeship and commitment by both teams and one that illustrated why we are so proud at Gallagher to partner this incredible league.
In front of a Covid-restricted 10,000-strong crowd that roared their support every bit as loud as the usual 80,000 capacity, Harlequins stunned with their energy and execution, ultimately denying the Chiefs the successful defence of their title in an impressive run of six consecutive finals.
With quick-fire tries and quality conversions, the lead switched hands several times. Minutes before the end the Chiefs threatened once more with a late score, but Harlequins hung on until the final whistle to become the Gallagher Premiership Rugby champions of 2021.
It was a fiercely-fought and fitting end to a season made memorable by a gradual return to near normality with limited numbers of fans now allowed back in stadiums after the behind-closed-doors culmination of the 2019/20 campaign.
Pandemic-related disruptions may have continued this season but rugby has once again demonstrated its resilience, and the power and passion of teamwork.
As our Chairman, President and CEO Pat Gallagher said on welcoming fans to this weekend’s Final: “We got to see the grit and determination of teams and players who came back stronger after crushing defeats, who overcame injuries and tackled setbacks in a shortened and stressful season.
“We’re here today because rugby is resilient. This league pulled through a global pandemic by facing every challenge head-on — just like the local businesses up and down the country that still serve as the lifeblood of their communities.”
And it was that determination, that tenacity, shown by so many UK organisations over the course of the past year that we chose to champion this season in our nationwide ‘Tackling Tomorrow Together’ campaign, launched back in January.
By showcasing and sharing the stories of six businesses and a regional charity, we wanted to recognise and reward the pioneering spirit so many have shown in the face of adversity. From a children’s hospice to a seaside entertainment centre, to a model railway manufacturer and a family-run footwear firm led by its third generation — just like Gallagher — their stories are all different.
What they have in common is a willingness to innovate and a determination to deliver the best care for their customers and their communities.
By partnering each organisation with their local Gallagher Premiership clubs, we sought to use our platform as title partner of Premiership Rugby to help tell their stories and introduce them to new audiences. From in-stadia advertising and region-specific marketing to business networking events and exclusive player appearances, this was our chance to give something back over and above our ongoing provision of specialist risk and insurance advice where we have helped them navigate the challenges of the past 15 months, with many forced to quickly adapt their offering or diversify their business model.
In the words of Michael Rea, Chief Executive of Gallagher’s UK Retail Division (pictured here just after the Gallagher Premiership Final with Man of the Match Joe Marler): “It has been incredible to see the optimism and tenacity of some of these businesses and we wanted to take a moment to champion and recognise both the challenges and opportunities presented during an extraordinary period.”
Our commitment to give back to local communities and support the vital work of grassroots rugby continued this season through our partnership with Project Rugby, the flagship community inclusion programme run by Premiership Rugby in conjunction with Gallagher and England Rugby.
Designed to boost participation in the game from traditionally under-represented groups including those living with a disability; young people from black, Asian and other ethnic minority communities; and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, the programme is going from strength to strength.
More than 55,000 young people have now engaged with the programme – something made possible even during the necessary postponement of in-person participation and festivals, via the launch of ‘Project Rugby at Home’. This community initiative featured all 12 of the Gallagher Premiership clubs this season and enabled young rugby enthusiasts to take part in exclusive, virtual sessions with their on-pitch heroes to help them stay active and engaged with the game.
Now, with Project Rugby playing sessions coming back on stream, we look forward to supporting the programme on the ground with our enthusiastic army of Gallagher volunteers.