Hooper’s title bid with team he helped humble

Stuart Hooper, right, leads Bath out at Twickenham on Saturday.
Stuart Hooper, right, leads Bath out at Twickenham on Saturday.
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AS part of the Leeds Tykes side that inflicted one of the biggest Twickenham shocks on cup kings Bath a decade ago, Stuart Hooper is now hoping to return in victorious style for the West Country club.

The experienced second-row is captain of Bath and plotting to help them win Aviva Premiership Final today when they face Saracens.

But in 2005 he was part of the unfancied Leeds pack that stunned Bath 10-6 in the Powergen Cup final despite being 4-1 on to lift the crown.

“I can’t believe it is 10 years ago,” said Hooper.

“It was a special day and will forever be etched on my memory.

“I remember us driving down the A4 to Twickenham. Bath fans were everywhere and all we could see was blue, black and white.

“At the end of the game, we had the stadium to ourselves and a few thousands noisy Leeds fans.

“Whatever the members of that team have achieved since in their careers, everyone involved on that day, winning the Powergen Cup with Leeds will be up there as one of their best rugby memories.”

Bath had played in 10 previous senior finals and won them all so the defeat came as quite a shock.

Will their fans finally properly forgive Hooper if he helps them to the title, their first since 1996, tomorrow?

“I think they would if we can get the job done,” he laughed, having joined Bath from Leeds in 2008, after more than 100 games in Tykes colours during a five-year career at Headingley.

“Whenever I am talking about that Cup win, I have to always remember that I wasn’t one of them back then and not get too excited.

“Having had the experience of lifting the trophy at Twickenham once before, hopefully that will help me on Saturday.

“Any experience in your career shapes what you feel going into a game.

“It was a great feeling to stand there on the podium and celebrate with the lads and it would be great to get the chance to do that again.”

Hooper – whose younger brother, the prop Ben, plays for Tykes’ current guise Yorkshire Carnegie – now lines up alongside former Bradford Bulls and England rugby league star Sam Burgess in Bath colours.

They will hope to topple Saracens to be crowned English champions and Hooper, 33, admitted: “I can’t wait.

“Saturday’s game is the culmination of a lot of effort over the year from everyone.”