Under 15s Tour - Devon 2018
Article by Tom Buttle, Head Coach
Our team has a long-standing tradition of touring annually and 2018 saw us travel just over the Cornish border to the picturesque town of Polperro. This was our base for the three nights even though the tournament was just under an hour back towards home in Devon at the ‘South Coast Rocks’ rugby festival organised by Team Tours Direct.
A total of 56 represented Eastbourne, consisting of 23 players and 33 family members.
Departure times varied massively on the Friday to travel down. Some left at 5am, were in their accommodation by 10am and kindly sharing photos of games of ping-pong in the sun and cold lagers to the parent’s Whatsapp group for the rest of us to salivate over as we were stuck in traffic and pondering how we could have flown to New York in less time than it took us to drive to Cornwall!
Friday night was a simple affair. Parents in the bar, kids tucked up in bed, fast asleep in preparation for the first day of competition (50% of those statements are 100% true).
Event organisers deserved a hand shake, as our age group was not scheduled to play until the afternoon on the Saturday. That gave our touring party time to leisurely awaken, pretend not to be hungover, refuel and make the hour long trip to Ivybridge RFC to begin our tournament.
Eastbourne were drawn against Abbey RFC (a team from Reading that had won Surrey Division 1 this season) and Reading RFC (whom had won Surrey Division 2).
The first match was played at a rapid pace with some huge tackles in defence from both sides. Plenty of words were exchanged between the teams throughout and tempers were simmering. Turns out 15 year old boys are full of testosterone - who knew? :-D
With the score tied at 2-2 and with barely any time remaining, tensions increased. Neither side were prepared to give an inch and unfortunately things boiled over again. The referee blew for time and the final score was a hard fought (excuse the pun) draw.
We now had an hour break to regroup, refuel and try and avoid the sun. We watched the Abbey v Reading game which Abbey comfortably won so we were hopeful.
We knew we wanted to play a fast tempo against Reading and felt the fact that they were coming off just a 15 minute rest, the rising temperatures and our excellent fitness levels would put us in a dominant position to take a victory. This all sounded great in theory but due to a lot of inaccuracy, we found ourselves repeatedly getting in trouble close to our own try line. Once again, tempers were strained and both teams were reminded of their responsibilities to concentrate on the game!
A fiery encounter ended up 1-1 and Eastbourne undefeated on day 1 although feeling that we should have won the second game.
As there were 9 teams competing in the U15 competition, consisting of three groups of three, it made calculating who made it through to which competition on day 2 pretty complicated. As the lowest placed runner-up, we were due to play the highest placed loser from the groups... Reading!
All this way and we end up playing the same team twice! Still, it meant an opportunity straight away to put in a better performance and hopefully make it through to the plate final. None of that mattered right now though as Saturday night was tour court and fancy dress and if we are all honest, it’s the real reason everyone wanted to go on tour in the first place, (oh and for the kids of course!)
There’s a saying that’s known the world over, “what goes on tour, stays on tour”. This tour is no different. Was there a tour court? Yes. Will we discuss what happened? No (and if anyone does, they’ll find themselves in the dock next year).
Fancy dress was pirate themed. Mark De La Mare seems to have a habit of looking good in any tour costume, he looked like a walking advertisement for Captain Morgan Rum!
The kids didn’t dress up, they’re far too cool for such things apparently, instead, they stayed in their caravans and made sure they got a good night’s sleep (ahem).
Sunday was once again a scorcher and an early start.
The boys, although bleary eyed, were up for their rematch with Reading and had been prepped to show controlled aggression. The game turned into an epic encounter with Eastbourne scoring the best team try I’ve seen, not only this season, but ever from this team. It had everything, attacking from inside our own half, individual flare, neat offloads, clinical rucking and after phases of play that were well into double figures, we scored under the posts.
What followed was a simply sublime individual try from winger, Kieran McGreevy. Collecting the ball from a wide pass deep inside our own half and playing up a significant hill, Kieran somehow managed to side step and elude 5 separate defenders in very little space to score a sensational try and put us into the lead for the first time.
The victory however was not going to come, as with the last play of the match, Reading had a lineout, 5 metres from our line. Uncontested lineouts mean a simple, secure collection for the attacking side and they formed a fast moving maul to score in the corner. The final whistle went and the score was tied at 4-4. There were then various murmurings as coaches and supporters tried to figure out what happened next. We knew there was no extra-time, so how was a winner decided? There were no conversions so try count was obviously the same, our previous result was a draw so that couldn’t separate us. In the end it came down to which team scored the first try. Unfortunately for us that meant Reading would progress to the plate final.
As a consolation we got to play Old Alleyians in a friendly which surprise, surprise, ended in a draw. We therefore finished the tournament undefeated. Bizarre really but it still felt like a decent achievement given the standard of opposition we faced.
By this point the kids didn’t care. They were queuing for ice creams and looking forward to an evening trip to the sandy beach of East Looe for chips and ‘touch’ rugby. The word ‘touch’ is intentionally in inverted commas as touch rugby fast turned into Parents v Sons touch rugby which in turn quickly became full contact. Kids used the opportunity to try and batter their parents. It wasn’t pretty! As a group of middle aged men, our fitness levels rivalled those of a pension queue so we did what we do best – cheated! Thank god for captain Lewis De La Mare’s mum Jas being on our side. She has the energy of the Duracell bunny and the boys weren’t quite sure what was the appropriate way to tackle her :-D
Rugby turned into American Football which suited us better. Rules that nobody understands and plenty of breaks in play to be bent double trying to catch our breath.
The evening was brilliant and we know the kids will remember it fondly for a long time.
That night saw a final few beverages for the adults and the kids ‘looking after’ one of the empty caravans left by one of our families that had to leave early.
A 4am start on Monday morning meant a simple journey home that took just over 4 hours rather than the 8.5 hour marathon from the trip down there.
As a team, everyone involved had a huge amount of fun. The kids bond is now stronger than ever, the parents now know each other that little bit better and collectively our age group is now stronger than ever.
I personally must thank Lesley Taylor and Lorraine Viles for their organising of a fundraising Quiz night which allowed us to have tour hoodies printed and as a team a huge thank you must go to Eastbourne Rugby Club who not only matched what we raised but also added in a bit extra to contribute £200 to our tour fund.
Gestures like that are hugely appreciated and make a massive difference to all of us involved to have the club’s support.
For those teams that haven’t toured before, we thoroughly recommend it. It will only reinforce the bonds in the team and the parents and for those that do tour already, the club have said they will help with contributions and fund raising where possible, so start the ball rolling now for 2019!
Click here for the tour photographs.
Updated 10:27 - 18 Aug 2018 by Greg Eldridge