Sweet success for Sunderland-born Jackson Wray as Saracens take Heineken Cup success in Newcastle
PUBLISHED: 06:42 13 May 2019
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What's better than winning the Heineken Cup? Being born in Sunderland and winning it at the home of Newcastle United.
The glint in the eye from Jackson Wray after Saracens' 20-10 win over Leinster at St James' Park was all the proof you needed to know that the sentiment was true.
The 28-year-old grew up in Essex and considers himself to be a child of that county.
But with his mam from Sunderland and a dad from Billingham on Teesside, he was actually born just down the road from the scene of Saturday's triumph, a fact that made the victory even sweeter.
"It does yes," he said. "Some of my family were here and they've never seen me play before.
"So the first game they see is in a final like that. It was special."
What his family would have seen was a contest that brought two titans of the European game together in an explosion of intensity and ferocity.
And the pair delivered their very best, slugging it out for the best part of 70 minutes until Billy Vunipola's try finally settled matters the way of the north London side.
And Wray admitted the battle was what was they had expected, even if Saracens didn't really get going until after 30 minutes of play.
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He said: "It was ferocious but we knew we had more in us and we were waiting a little bit.
"We were in and out good but it's a privilege to play in and be a part of that team.
"We were a little bit tentative in the first 30 minutes but I must admit for the rest of the game we were unbelievable.
"With the fight and physicality we brought, we weren't losing today.
"I saw that and thought we were there.
"From the last 10 minutes of the first half I felt confident and felt we were in a good place."
Friends and family from the victorious Saracens' team flooded the pitch at the final whistle.
And those members of Wray's family witnessing a game of his for the first time would surely have been impressed at the match in the white-hot cauldron of noise that was St James'.
Wray said: "We knew we'd get it form Leinster's fans but fair play to ours. They were there in numbers and they were loud.
"At the end we saw them for sure and I'm so pleased that we can give them that memory to take.
"It's definitely a good one for us."