Under 13s Reds and Greens in Lisbon
It ain't half wet Mum
And so it came to pass, the much awaited Portugal Rugby Festival where 25 of Stockport's under 13's would make their way to Lisbon for their 9th tour in their short rugby careers which is fairly ridiculous for your average 12 year old!
The advance tour party of Kirky, Anton & Malcolm and respective sons made their way over a day early on the pretext of checking the hotel was adequate and the playing venues etc were up to scratch but what really happened was a two day stag do with 12 year old bouncers managing their fathers.
Once the main tour party arrived, albeit late after Julie Abbott was challenged by a 20 year old girl at the luggage carousel " You've got my case!" no its not, its mine! I think you'll find its actually mine!" said the perplexed 20 year old.
Upon arrival at the hotel Julie duly opened the case to find a size 8 swimming costume and enough thongs to supply the local Victoria's Secret shop which was fairly conclusive proof Julie had got this one badly wrong.
On the first morning the day before the Festival, Head Coach Hanson marched the boys down to the local beach in Cascais for a training session only for the heavens to open on what proved to be the three wettest days in Portuguese history.
After a quick change it was out for lunch where it soon became clear that the 15 dads were seriously out gunned in the drinking stakes as the 9 mums turned the previous days stag do into nothing short of an Iberian Hen Party led by Sara "does anyone fancy another" O'Neil. But we'll come back to this one later.
Onto the festival itself where the boys were split in to the tried and tested mixed ability Red & Green squads as we were on holiday and noone was really going to take the rugby seriously are they? and after all the Portuguese don't even really play rugby.... do they?
Up first was the Red Squad who faced Portuguese side Direto in their first game and the change into 10 a side format on less than half a pitch caught the Stockport boys by surprise after going 4 tries to 1 down after only 8 minutes before the boys switched to route one rugby releasing Miles Cooke who scored all 4 tries to salvage a point for the Reds before the Greens opened their account with a 35-0 win over Ererince.
Next up were the Reds again who faced local side CDUL which saw the Reds slump to a surprising 2-1 loss which resulted in a coaches meeting to try and nail the wheels firmly back on! At this stage it was fair to say Portuguese rugby had been badly underestimated!
Back came the Greens to face Sao Miguel which at least brought a smile to some of the dads after their wholehearted support of the brand over the last few years at the Stockport bar. Unfortunately though in a very tough encounter the Greens slipped to one try a piece draw which would see the Greens having to face pre tournament favourite Titans of Johannesburg who had won their first two games in topping the group.
The Reds in their next game suddenly found their feet with a 70-0 win before the Greens took the field against the South Africans after a rain storm of biblical proportions which left the playing surface looking more like the Somme but after the winter we’d just had it felt very much like home, which was the last thing we went to Portugal for!
In an absolute classic with very little space, twenty boys went and knocked lumps out of each other in a very physical encounter with one spear tackle on number one son left him looking like he'd been planted as he went head first in to the Lisbon mud that would be a straight red anywhere except Lisbon!
The South Africans took the lead against the run of play but Stockport looked the more likely winner after Tommy Kirkham stood his man up to score a superb solo try in the corner only for Stockport to lose one of their go to players in Rowan Abbott who had to leave the field to have 10 stitches in a horrible looking cut.
On came super sub Ben Perry who looked to have won the game for Stockport with an interception that saw him race away only for the ref to call him back for offside however from the resulting penalty the Titans forced their way over to win the game with almost the last play to break Stockport hearts which saw us relegated in to the Plate competition. The only saving grace was it was Titans toughest game as they powered through their semi final and final to win the tournament which drew a wry smile from the boys as they knew this was one that got away.
Onto the Sunday where the Reds found themselves in the Vase competition which was unfortunately named the Donut Cup after the sponsors however the name didn’t deter the Reds who produced their best rugby of the competition in soundly beating Sao Miguel who had had held the Greens the day before to book a place in the Donut Cup final where they beat Santarem 30-5 to seal the Vase/Donut Cup.
Then it was on to the Greens Semi final against Agronomia for another close game which saw them hold out for victory in another classic where the boys were cheered on by the entire under 15 squad and their parents and coaches which made the difference as the boys soaked up everything Agronomia cold throw at them as a defensive midfield of the Robinson twins, Joe Sheridan and Mattie Leach proved almost impenetrable as the Greens sealed a back foot win courtesy of two Arthur Carrol length of the field tries to seal a Plate final against the side who beat the Reds the day before CDUL.
With the Stockport boys getting better with every game they left the best till last with a superb final performance as they took the Cup by five tries to one to seal a brilliant weekend of rugby albeit in weather that ranged from 20 degrees sunshine through to rain storms that would have had Noah reaching for his umbrella.
Thoughts then turned to the supporting the under 15’s who had made the final v Bristol Academy where the game was played in the magnificent Lisbon University Stadium where we unfortunately had to watch the Titans take the Cup which left me very grumpy indeed but to cheer us up the 15’s saw the job through to win their tournament which resulted in much celebration.
Once back home after a quick shower, evening dinner was consumed with much gusto before the much awaited tour court session. After an interesting April 1st where I sent out a joke saying after the numbers of mums on this years tour was too high so for the up & coming Edinburgh tour next season would be lads and dads only leading to a couple of replies from Mums who didn’t really understand the joke which would become the showpiece trial of the court session where Counsel for the Mums Doug Rode would argue Mums should be on tour where prosecution Counsel Adrian Carrol would counter the argument.
After much debate Prosecutor Carrol insisted if Mums should be on tour they should be treated the same as the men and a boat race between the sexes was swiftly arranged with weights & measures Cooke Dooley & Morrris that well known purveyor of not so fine wines lined up 10 beers for the boat race.
After what appeared a fairly slow start from Chie Rushton the mums appeared to be lagging behind before they played their jokers in Nichola Wilkson and Sara O’Neil who demolished Brendan “ The Budgie” Dooley & Craig “ I can’t drink to save my life” Leach leaving Jo "The bucket” Rode to ram home the advantage leaving Derek Spencer still on the starting blocks with his drink untouched leading to wild celebrations where it didn’t go unnoticed all of the boys were cheering for the Mums!
As presiding Judge I had to declare the Mums the winner and never again can the issue of Mums on tour be ever raised again as it is now firmly within the constitution. The only good thing is we now have next years first case ready to go where Dooley & Leach will be dealt with.
All in all a great experience for the boys and we will be going back for the under 15 version in two years time where we will do our best to win the Cup.
Lastly a massive thank you to our beloved sponsor Andy Morris and Assurant who's sponsorship and support make these trips possible and we look forward to October's Assurant Edinburgh Tour!