Some 4,000 tourists (including 1,800 mini rugby players from U7 to U12) descended on the Isle of Wight for the Vectis Festival last weekend.
For us, it all started on Saturday at 9.30am on Saturday at the RAA with the presentation of the tour jerseys, an event that echoed Telfer's “Everest” speech to the Lions in SA in 1997. Alright, that didn't quite happen but the boys were chuffed to bits with their new kit and put them on straight away.
The intrepid London Scottish party then left the RAA at around 10am by coach, taking the joys of the New Forest en route (and in concession to Dave Lund, rather too much of the M4 and M25).
We were welcomed by the publicans into a great establishment where the kids played and everyone got to know the others age groups much better. A good bonding moment.
After a bit of lubrication we got back onto the coach and sang on the way to the Ferry. Not to be outdone by the U12s (whose fathers clearly listen to too much Magic FM) and knew the words to Survivor's “Eye of the Tiger”, we responded with some American Pie and Sloop John B led by the music man Kevin Donovan.
Once on the Island we checked in to the bar of a holiday resort while the kids played a game called Clans – which looks like a kid's version of Game of Thrones, involving running around with sticks and changing alliances – all ably led by Ralph Knowles, aka the Wizard Melbourne.
After putting the kids to bed – way too late, the U10s congregated in Sonia's caravan or ‘Bar U10’ Janey and Sonia did a great job and all sorts of stuff was on offer – including Mojitos. Great evening, with some lasting until 3am.
Strong coffee and smoked bacon filled the air of the caravan park on Sunday at 7.30am.
After doing the washing up with Ralph Eley's shower gel (enhanced with aromatherapy oils) – who needs fairy liquid – the boys put on their well laid out kit and put their game faces on.
There were 24 teams competing in the U10s competition, how would we fare? First game against Gosport was sublime and we romped in with some great tries (once the boys figured out the strange pitch markings). It looked like the Barbarians, length of the field stuff – champagne rugby.
We then played Chichester and were beaten 1-0. We had most of the play. What was going on?
Then we came up against US Portsmouth, a fine team and we were truly asleep at the wheel.
We were well beaten but the boys felt that we should have won.
The boys realised that they would have to step up. We were on tour and did not want to go back home early and empty handed.
Some of the big-eaters in the team decided to forego lunch, so as not to be sluggish and slowed down.
The attitude changed. The next game against the Trojans was comfortably won. They played badly against us, we then watched them thump Chichester. The Pools were now over, we entered the plate competition. Knock-out rugby.
The entire squad had played a part in getting this far. The boys decided they wanted to win.
Tetbury was up next, the quarter-finals.
The big game players stood up. The confidence percolated through the side.
The subs ran on with the instruction to make a difference and change the game.
Players coming off were applauded. Everyone was raising their game. Parents too. Jim Lorimer was in fine voice cheering on the boys (next year he's bringing the pipes). We won, 3-1.
The semi-final against Alton was on a knife-edge. The boys dug in deep, crashing tackles were made, rucks were won, balls were ripped and most importantly the boys ran onto the ball from deep on straight lines (well done Richard!). Hard yards first, then wide. We won 3-2 with some spectacular tries. We were in the final!
Trojans up next. This looked like their strongest team. The first half was tight but we led. The second half talk from the coaches was memorable. “Boys, there's five minutes to go. If you win, you will be proud of yourselves. So proud. Whatever the result, we are all proud of you”.
There is no way this group of boys was going to lose. No way. They played some exceptional rugby winning the final 3-0.
The intensity and bravery was tremendous. Every player on tour played in the final, every player laid their hands on the silverware, team photos galore! Winning with inclusivity – how about that!
Well done coaches: John, Sam and Charlie. Great stuff.
We returned to the RAA at 8pm on Sunday evening with some silverware for the cabinet in the Member's Bar and the boys singing “We are the champions”. Happy chappies.
Great tour. Great camaraderie amongst the boys. Fine memories.
Look forward to seeing you all in a few weeks for the awards day and a fine end to the season.