Tour Day 2
Saturday was a windy washout. Surfing cancelled due to 50 mph winds and a swell as tall as Jedd and Lucas combined – but the swell was less scary…. A trip to Barnstaple for indoor sports was the replacement. A mash-up of Soccer, Basketball and Handball. The best bit was no injuries as 3 games running in parallel was a recipe for carnage. The worst bit was then the 30 min walk (each way) around scenic Barnstaple ring road to find a McDonalds. BigMac wanted a Big Mac so we all had to have one. At least the kids were only able to indulge in £5 burgers with Cola and Milkshakes. The majority of the parents were in Wetherspoon’s indulging in £5 burgers and coffee lattes. Too early for alcohol we were reliably informed as Bill slugged from his hip flask claiming it was alcohol free Salted Caramel Vodka.
Saturday finished with a night in the Clubhouse waiting for our food as Jim claimed every meal with his lucky “22 paddle”. The kids went for a quiet evening stroll and then an early bedtime like all rugby professionals before their big match.
Tour Day 3
Sunday arrived and the wind had died down. The kids were awake early after their 10 hours beauty sleep. In Billy’s case all night as his tonsils refused to behave and he had to leave the tour early. They jumped and crawled onto the coach, bodies still aching from Friday night’s game. Quick head count and we were missing another player. Quick name check and we found the culprit. Arthur Early ? He’s never early! Lives too close to the club. 30 seconds later he sprinted to the coach and we had a workable squad.
Next stop Bideford for the last game of the season and a chance to finish on a high. 60 more minutes of effort and then 4 months off to recover. Bideford looked to be a strong outfit with only 4 losses all season. They looked good in warmups. Their Exeter Academy #10 looked very useful – on his crutches as he shuffled along the sideline giving tips to Alex on how not to enjoy watching a game that you desperately wanted to be part of!
Alex was rejuvenated and battled through the pain desperate to get onto the pitch. 4 miles of strapping tape, 16 ibuprofen and copious lashings of deep heat were just about holding his shoulder together. Passing drills went well. He was just about able to throw a perfect pop pass about 15 inches. Shove him in the forwards we thought…..no risk of throwing a 20 metre pass to the winger or getting clattered on a high clearance catch that had been his downfall on Friday night.
Then the phone rang and medic Delia (or was it his worried Mum?) instructed us not to risk him so we resorted to Plan B and kept the same team that had finished on Friday night. The teams took the pitch and Alex joined his injured Bideford mate and they just kicked the advertising boards in frustration……
1st Half Guest Match Reporter: Jonathan Early
HURRICANE HANNAH PLAYS HAVOC WITH HAIR
The weekend so far had been full of surprises - from Friday night giving Wellington the boot to Hurricane Hannah blow drying us all in Barnstaple on Saturday, especially playing havoc with Patrick, Phil and the writer’s hair! Later that day Russell played catch-up after having joined others on a cliff top jaunt rather than relaxing in the bar with consecutive pints of mild…
In the evening thoughts turning to culinary affairs and the feeding of the 5,000. All eventually had full tummies moments before retiring to bed.
Bleary-eyed and weary the Stroud U15’s rugby machine and its entourage quietly crept onto the tour coach like the zombie living-dead. The coach arrived at Bideford on time. Skies were overcast….
Starting line up
Forwards: Bernie, Orgy, Stoner, Mr.T, Jedd, Euan, Keyan, Laurie
Backs: Hilly, Will, Dave, Arthur, Big Mac, Flash, Fin
Subs: Lucas, Callum, Alex
After an indifferent warm-up Stroud kicked off with Will popping the ball into centre stage. Bideford pushed up and looked eager but the Stroud forwards machine showed them they meant business early on, but Bideford retained possession. Keyan showed good intent but to no avail. From the breakdown Stroud got a penalty and Will whipped the ball to Dave who fumbled it and the Bideford side picked up. Bernie and Stoner gave valiant defence as the opposition’s fast paced backline got the ball. It’s all North Devon cream teas at this point.
Laurie gained good yardage from a turnover ball but Bideford got possession again. They failed to roll away at the ruck and Will dispatched the ball onto the top of the club house after the penalty was awarded. Momentum gathered as Orgy’s line out ball, 20 yards from the try line, was good and Laurie formed a maul. A pile of bodies went to ground and Hilly whipped the ball to Will which was fed cleanly along the line to Big Mac, who scored in the corner. Slick hands and fluidity on the move proved too much for the West Country lads. The conversion line was good but fell just short for Will. 5-0
Bideford kicked deep. Dave’s reliable jazz hands received the ball and he walloped it over the opposition. They collected and ran with it and chipped back to Fin. There’s a steal by the Devonians followed by a classic counter steal by Arthur. Stroud then got a put-in at the scrum from a Bideford infringement, and Hilly offloaded again to Will. Decent back line work was halted by the home side who won possession at the ruck. Euan and Stoner piled the pressure on as Dave got the turnover ball. Momentum again gathered from Keyan to Flash but he’s halted by another West Country steal. Man mountain Mr.T did sterling work as Bideford got frustrated. Flash cleanly caught a high hoisted ball and gained good yardage and the ensuing ruck formed and Keyan helped himself to the prize. Hilly, ably assisted by Stoner and Jedd, got to within 5 yards of the line. Stroud exhibited their strength in depth from excellent forward play, quick ball to Keyan offloaded to Will then to Dave, who flicked to sidestepping Arthur who touched the ball down for 10-0. The conversion took us to 12-0.
Lucas was now on for the injured Bernie as Bideford kicked off again. Stroud knocked on but forwards pressure after the scrum forced the oppositions error. An intimidating run from Dave concluded with Big Mac scoring again in the corner for an unconverted 17-0.
Stroud’s game was now firing on all cylinders and Bideford were starting to look jaded. Keyan received from their kick-off. Laurie made good ground only to have the ball intercepted. Possession was regained as Stoner ripped from the maul and Laurie exploited another opportunity assisted by Mr. T and Jedd. Will targeted the corner after the Biddies infringed at the ruck. There was a Stroud knock on after the line out giving Bideford the advantage, but our lads bundled them into touch. Fluid hands after the line-out floated the ball along our back line again only to be bundled into touch themselves, 30 yards from the try line. An interception by Big Mac allowed Dave to kick deep over the try line only to have Bideford touch the ball down resulting in a 5 yard scrum. Stroud failed to capitalise and the opposition turned the ball over and relieved the pressure by walloping the ball to the half-way line. Fin gathered cleanly and offloaded to Big Mac. Good forward support from Lucas and Mr.T allowed Hilly to pop the ball to Dave who flamboyantly scored between the posts. Will converted for a 24-0 lead.
The back-end of the first half saw Stroud dominate again with Lucas turning the ball over. Play stopped for an injured Will.
Bideford defended valiantly but the Stroud machine railroaded through. A turnover ball in the last few minutes saw Mr.T sustaining the pressure, offloading to Will who said “ My leg might hurt, but the try line beckons!” He scored.
Half-time scoreline 29-0 to Stroud
2nd Half Guest Match Reporter: Chris Hayes
Line up: Lucas, Orgie, Stoner, Will T, Callum, Laurie, Keyan, Euan, Hilly, Will H, Arthur, Dave, Archie M, Archie C, Fin.
With the light drizzle starting to abate, Stroud were expecting a backlash from the Bideford boys, having come so close in the first half. Archie M caught their kick from the restart and went on a dazzling run up the right with some fine footwork, not dissimilar to that of the former Irish winger Simon Gaghgeon, having weaved and darted, he ran in along the line and then dotted down between the posts for Will H to add the afters making it 0-36.
Keyan collected from the restart, this time taking back to halfway. A driving maul ensued and a bit of jiggery pockery with Stroud awarded the scrum. Having got the ball out we managed to give it away to the determined Bideford boys who hoofed it down in our half again to touch. After the lineout, we whisked it one way then the next, with Arthur and Dave both making good ground to offload to Archie M again, racing away only to be bundled into touch just before their corner flag on the right. They then won the ball back to hoof it down to the halfway line again. A couple of personnel changes ensued with Jedd back on and before too long Archie M was off again to finish under posts, with Will H making it 0-43.
Could they crack on or were they now going to do ‘a Gloucester’? Rugged defence from our boys kept Bideford at bay and Euan made good progress up the middle as we ventured into their half again. Laurie continued a nifty, jigging run only to offload to Hilly who dotted the ball down in the corner to make it 0-48.
Keyan returned to the fold with Fin off as did Alex for a last run out for the season with Stroud. Keyan charged down a kick from Bideford following a scrum from a fluffed restart before we managed to lose the ball following some good Bideford pressure. We won the ball back and Dave flew up to their 22 before offloading to Laurie who then, in turn, shipped it out to Keyan to dot down under the posts again. Will again took the conversion with ease to make it 0-55.
Following a brief discussion it was decided to blow up a bit early and draw the Stroud playing season to an end in fine form.
Full-time: Bideford 0 - 55 Stroud
Both teams and supporters retired to the clubhouse for some post-match food and presentations to reflect on a well spirited game and look forward to surfing. Dave was nominated by Bideford as their man of the match and received a Bideford game shirt and Sam was awarded a tie for organising the tour, swiftly going into Rambo mode and tieing round her head as a war cry, or was it just elation that the tour was drawing to a close for another successful year and she could put her clipboard down?!
The Stroud ‘Hotshots’ then headed off for a re-enactment of ‘Point Break’ at Woolacombe Bay.
Now back to the normal match reporter…… Thanks Jonathan and Chris for your reports. Very good. Surprisingly accurate. Much better than the normal guy – you can take over the reporter’s job next season…
The hospitality from Bideford was very enjoyable and many thanks to them for putting on the game, feeding the kids, watering the parents and organising an independent ref. He was resplendent in Irish green who did well to keep up with the game. 50 years of reffing experience advising him to not chase after BigMac on the wing – you know he’s going to score and give Will an easy kick under the posts – just amble back to halfway and save your energy for the next re-start.
Bideford had only lost 4 games all season including close games with arch rivals and noisy neighbours Barnstaple (Arsenal vs Spurs, Liverpool vs Man Utd, Stroud vs Minch, England vs France/Wales/Scotland/Ireland pales in comparison). Bideford had lost their County Cup game vs champs Ivybridge 27-10 so Stroud were now claiming the scalp of Devon by a complicated mathematical algorithm that only Professor Hawkins could understand.
The coach headed north to take on their next opponents and another physical battering – this time it was the Atlantic swell that was waiting at Woolacombe for the hastily re-arranged surf lessons. 2 were missing from the water – only 1 had a valid excuse…..
- Bernie in Barnstaple A&E having his concussion assessed – or was it a desperate escape to avoid Keyans and Dave’s awful tunes on the bus?
- Stoner – his body in pieces after 2 games and a tackle count of 86. The promise of drowning copious volumes of diet coke in the Red Barn alongside his proud Dad more appealing than 2 hours of drowning in the Atlantic
Surfing was great fun – both for the kids who had varying degrees of success, and for the parents watching and seeing wipeouts galore with the occasional good wave ridden. It was clear to say that great rugby players do not make great surfers. Next seasons Stroud U16s and Glos DPP Academy will not be losing any players to the Newquay/Point Break Surfing World Tour.
Another quick drive back to Watermouth to collect our belongings, and a 3 hour drive home got us back to Stroud for 9:30pm. 374 miles driven on tour. Waiting for us was Bernie who had played a blinder and managed to convince NHS Devon to release him and then get a speedy Uber taxi back to Stroud – another challenging invoice for Jenks accountant to process with HMRC ;-)
Bernie’s head was still pounding from the game knocks, but was still less painful than the 60 mins of kids musical renditions we had to endure on the coach. From Take That, to Queen to Black Sabbath. At least the parents could recognise the music the kids were butchering. Next seasons Stroud U16s and Glos DPP Academy will not be losing any players to the “Britains Got Talent World Tour”.
So another successful end-of-season tour. 2 more counties ticked off. Somerset and Devon beaten. Bodes well for Glos Rugby. If they can’t beat Exeter in the first 40 mins of Twickenham Premiership Final send on Stroud U15s to finish the job in the 2nd half for you.
Hope the recently injured players Bernie, Billy and Alex recover quickly. Compare notes with long term sicknotes Harry and Darion (and Coaches Mk I and Mk II) on how to deal with your sideline frustrations.
Many thanks to Sam and Mark for being instrumental in doing all the hard work with tour organisation – coaches, accommodation, surfing, sponsorship gathering etc. The phone was glued to Sam’s ear all weekend with re-organising schedules and people. If you want to go to Japan for Rugby World Cup don’t bother with Mike Burton Tours and instead we recommend “Organ Overseas Opulence Ltd” is ready for your call on 0800 NEVER AGAIN
Many thanks to the tour sponsors who heavily subsidised the coach and gave us a great travel experience:
- Project One Analysis Ltd
- Omega Resources Group Ltd
- EPS Electrical Contractors Ltd
- Curtis Developments Ltd
- Alternative Plumbing and Heating Solutions
- Central Cladding Systems Ltd