DURHAM CITY U-14’S TOUR 2018
Things started well! The tour party gathered at Durham RFC in garb as required…..Men in Black outfits for the team and 1980’s fancy dress for parents. It is fair to say that the latter included a wide variety of interpretations which, at the extremes, both shocked and thrilled onlookers. This reporter - for one - still wakes in the middle of the night screaming at the thought of an unkempt Pamela Anderson!
A beautiful morning saw the party cram onto the bus and fight for seats. Luckily they had all received a pre-travel sedative and things soon settled down. The squad took up positions towards the rear of the bus and, in between looking cool, played their favourite party games, Beetle, Cribbage and snakes and ladders (the squad had decided, quite rightly, that Spin the Bottle was a definite ‘no!’ for the tour bus). Party games exhausted, the knitting and crocheting broke out with the race to complete the first pair of luminous mittens being particularly hotly contested.
For their part, the parents sat quietly, perhaps even angelically, striking a fine balance between drool and dread as stewards plied the walkway with refreshments which became more and more exotic as the journey went on. A convoy of passing Police vans raised tensions momentarily as the tour party feared that the tour would have to take place at Newton Aycliffe services…..but it was OK, the Police were after some other criminals and the tour went on! Anyone brave enough to try to sleep was rudely awakened as a large-lunged creature sent out shrill bugle tones on the hour every hour…..spare a thought for her poor husband!
As the miles passed, the ever-present danger of de-hydration was dealt with effectively and usually pre-emptively using our very own on-board bowser…..how can there be so many ways of making glasses of plain water more interesting?
Despite all these things, the trip flew and the tour arrived at its first destination…Sleaford RFC just south of Lincoln…..a quiet place until then!!
DURHAM CITY VS SLEAFORD – SATURDAY APRIL 14th: DURHAM CITY 34 – SLEAFORD 0
Arriving safely after a three hour journey Durham’s Men In Black stepped down from the coach looking calm, collected and, it has to be said, fairly cool! The casual observer could well have mistaken this sleek bunch with black shades – often of the wrap around variety - for a works outing of perhaps the Mafia or CIA and they were about to demonstrate that they could be just as ruthless in dispatching their unsuspecting opponents.
Stretching their legs in the bright Lincolnshire morning sun, they would surely have noted the perfect playing conditions and flat, moist pitch. Without a word they walked silently towards the changing rooms, their brooding menace leaving home supporters to wonder whether they were being visited not by a bunch of young squibs from Durham but by Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs.
Out they came as one. The squad of 21 looking keen and up for the contest which began just after mid-day when Durham kicked-off proceedings to loud cheering and bugle calls. The ball fell deep into Sleaford territory and early Durham pressure kept it there in or around Sleaford’s 22. Sleaford resisted manfully as Durham pressured, kicked and chased and piled on the pressure when the ball neared the home side’s try line on at least two occasions. Desperate but effective home defending denied Durham an early breakthrough as the visitors passed the ball from left to right and back again across much of the pitch looking for an overlap. This continued for much of the first ten minutes as only a series of knock-ons perpetrated by Durham relieved the pressure on Sleaford.
Sleaford’s resistance was broken soon afterwards. Dispelling any doubts about whether Durham had misplaced their cutting edge, they broke the deadlock with a great passing move across the pitch from left to right which released a break and touch down right between Sleaford’s posts. Swiftly despatched, the conversion gave Durham a deserved lead of 7-0 after 20 minutes. This became 12-0 four minutes later after great recovery and recycling by the visitors and an angled run over the line. This remained the score at half time as Durham ended a half which they had pretty much dominated.
Sleaford started the second half and conceded an early penalty which Durham kicked well to touch only 10 yards out from Sleaford’s line. Probing for the breakthrough, Durham used the maul and pushed forwards until, quick as a flash, they broke over the line five yards from the left hand corner for a 17-0 lead. A very tricky conversion went narrowly wide.
The tough battle for territory and possession resumed in the centre of the pitch and lasted a good ten minutes. Despite Durham’s otherwise Guardiola-like rookie coach fielding only 14 players for a short while! – Sorry but it makes a good headline! - Durham made their next breakthrough after 17 minutes. Sucking defenders into a ruck just inside the home half and on the right, Durham spotted an overlap and released a break down the wing and over for a 22-0 lead. Six minutes later, with tetchiness creeping into the game, Durham extended their lead with great, snappy passing which left Sleaford short of cover on their left wing. Durham scented blood and went for it to put the game well beyond Sleaford’s reach at 27-0. Although the try had been scored in the very furthest left hand corner of the pitch, an excellent conversion gave the visitors a deserved 29-0 lead.
Confusion surrounded Durham’s next and final attack with only a minute left on the clock, but a steady push towards Sleaford’s line on the far left wing took Durham over for a fully deserved and comprehensive 34-0 victory, their first on tour for some time.
The tour party returned to the clubhouse where Sleaford’s hospitality ensured a fun afternoon which included hectic bar games and rounders (using a rolling pin and tennis balls) for the younger, more nimble members of the party. Only the brutal treatment handed out by one side’s fourth base player to his own niece!!!!....there is no man-to-man marking in rounders!!........ marred a game reminiscent of the highest quality World Series performances. For the purpose of clarity, all grass stains incurred during the tour were from this game!
Having had such a good time, the parents suddenly realised that the entire squad was gone! Helicopter searches across Lincolnshire located them having fun at a ‘mega’ water sports centre in Tattershall and the coach raced off to collect them. Funny how the squad all maintained that dipping in water containing bird faeces, soil and other evil things actually meant that they didn’t need a shower afterwards!
Luckily there was space in the baggage compartment for them all and the tour proceeded to Lincoln for a well-earned meal and games back at the hotel.