12 A Side French Rugby - 24 boys Two Teams No Subs?
The day finally arrived after weeks of preparation, by our manager Gary Crawford our first International Tour. Boys and parents congregated at Rectory Field to board our coach which was departing at 1500. Thanks to all those headmasters who granted the boys permission to leave school early to tour, and those who did not our best wishes go to you too in the forthcoming cricket season. Special thanks also to those parents who adopted children for the tour to enable them to go and for all except one to bringing the correct passport.
Gary Crawford put on light refreshments for the journey and by the time we reached our first stop, a cash and carry just outside Calais to re -stock the coach was clinking with empties. It was then that panic set in as we suffered our first mechanical breakdown, but with our drivers technical expertise (Hammer)we were soon on the road again.
We arrived at out tour accommodation the All Seasons, Lille not to be mistaken for the Four Seasons as if you could! Clean, comfortable and functional. each room was fitted with a sauna, well it felt like that, or was the dry mouth and sore throat due to over indulgence the previous evening?
Without a booking that evening we descended on mass to a restaurant opposite the hotel and took over the basement floor except for a small table for four who were surprised to see us. Using my best French I was able to offer the tourists the choice of pizza or spaghetti bolognese not very French I know. Coaches acted as waiters for the evening as the staff couldn't cope with our numbers. Having disposed of the pizza and pasta washed down with a very strange sweet beer or the house red & white we made our way back to the bar. Early night in preparation for the mornings games I think not.
On the coach again the following morning and a 40 minute trip to Arras our hosts. On arrival the boys were issued with there skin tight (when they grow into them) Blackheath first 15 shirts all numbered anther thank you to Gary Crawford for doing this.
After much ado the teams were selected on equal ability. We were lucky on the skill mixes and the way it worked out we had a boy in what was there usual position in each team.
There was some outstanding rugby played by both sides and both ended the day undefeated. The games were very physical and we had to use players from the team not playing to come on for the team that was.
Below are the results for day One
Blackheath A 45 v RC Arras 5
Blackheath B 30 v Northern 10
Blackheath B 35 v Old Colfieans 0
Blackheath A 40 v Poklington 10
It was a shame we only got to play one French side who had a girl playing for them who was without doubt their best player and a few red faces from our boys who missed tackles on her (you know who you are!).
After day one we lost several boys to injury. Sam Crawford was an early departure after the first game and more were to follow. The French Red Cross were on hand to assist and everyone got a go on the spinal board with collar and strapped in and some got a ride in the ambulance to the local hospital. Thankfully nothing too serious.
Another quiet night followed! in another restaurant in town where the food was much better that the previous night.
Back at Arras for day two, where we had depleted sides but we continued with two teams. First game was against Old Colfieans who narrowly beat us from their reaction that was their final good for them! and then came our worst nightmare the organisers wanted both teams to play at the same time. In one of the games we could only start with 11 players, this dropped down to 8 in the second half our opposition continued with their 12. We lost of course but only to two tries. I continually asked the boys if they wanted to forfeit the game but to their credit they played on.
After that we had to amalgamate into one team. We had scored enough points to get into the final against Northern. All the boys that were fit got a game in the final and the final result was Blackheath 45 v Northern 5 who were gracious in defeat but were by no means a push over and extremely physical but the pace in our backs proved too much for them.
All the boys put in exceptional effort on the tour there were of course the usual stars chris annous, Tom Adamson, Reuben Bird Tulloch, Keiran Palmer, Marcus Bunger, Ollie Bell and others but I think a lot of parents were impressed with some rising stars from the Bs in particular Jarrod Hoddy, Jordan Guy, Connor MaCarthy, Charlie Bayliss and death before dishonour Nathan Lawrie.
Post tour dinner back in Lille with our newly acquired magnificent trophy, medals and tour shirts for the evening. No report on that tour rules apply needless to say the kangaroo court identified many defaulters and a particularly noxious chilli concoction had to be consumed.
The trip home the following morning was not pretty with some of us looking the worse for wear but we were soon home. Further thanks again for the photographic parents for taking all of the pictures some I know I would rather not see again, remember tour rules not for publication. Looking forward to the break but excited at the prospects for the squad next season, it will be hard to beat this one but Kent Champions is achievable next season. Please, please, please don't go on holiday at Easter and keep mothers day for rugby.
Signing off until next Season