Old Albanians U13 Tour of Great Yarmouth 2016

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May bank holiday weekend saw the OA’s under 13 rugby tour to Great Yarmouth, we nicknamed the team the OA Panthers, but in fairness we should have called them the Bulls, the entire squad were exactly that, bullish in every game they played.

As a group we all stayed in Hemsby, near the beach and the amusement arcades, which of course meant we saw very little of the squad who were typically at one or the other.

Our first day of rugby was on Saturday 30th April, we were fortunate to be playing in the afternoon, which allowed time for go-karting in the morning. Which was far from uneventful… A few small bumps, some driver cam work and even a hit and run….. Great preparation for the games to come!

We kicked off the first of our 3 matches for the day against Horsham, with whom we drew 5-5 in an incredibly tough match.

The team spent the majority of the first half in Horsham’s half, but the defense held firm, with us scoring only a single try. The second half continued as the first but with less than a minute to go Horsham scored the equalizing try. The final whistle sounded and the score recorded. I thanked the referee, who stated, and I quote “I have been covering the matches for older age groups here all day, and that is the best game of rugby I have refereed” he also picked out our pack, stating that their technique and body position was exemplary.

Our second match was against Long Buckby RFC, which we won 35-0. Once again we rotated all our players, everyone getting game time. The backs played really well, moving the ball through hands and hitting the line at full pace making them very hard to defend.

The final match of the day was against Nuneaton RFC, which saw OA’s run in 11 tries in a 55-5 win. It should be noted that tournament rules, in order to conserve time didn’t include conversions.

A successful day on grass preceded a successful evening out for all the tourists. Our organizer, Michelle booked a private function area in a fantastic venue for dinner, drinks and good conversation, oh and an ad-hoc table tennis tournament and “battle on the beach” in the sand dunes for the players.

Everyone made it back and whilst very few were asleep before Sunday everyone seemed was up and about Sunday morning. Once again there were a number of ad-hoc events from crazy golf, to more karting and even beach rugby.

Day two saw us OA’s planned for two and possibly three matches. The competition was such that of the six teams in the group, everyone played each other and then final would be the first and second teams, more on that later….

Our first game was against Leicester Forrest RFC, a tough, physical and quick team. The result was a 25-5 win for OA’s. There were some exceptional tackles made in the game, they had a number of flyers who had been running in tries against the other teams and our lads knew they couldn’t not miss their first opportunities, they didn’t!

Back to the potential final.

The plan was all teams play each other, then those in position 1 and 2 play each other in the final. The problem was that OA’s and Loughborough RFC were in 1 & 2 before we played each other and Horsham had one game to play with a target to hit of scoring 20 unanswered tries in their last game against Leicester Forrest RFC. So, “Beef” from Loughborough and I spoke with Horsham and the tournament organizers and agreed to play a straight final rather than play each other twice.

So, the final was Loughborough RFC v OA’s, we were advised that in the event of a draw the team who score the first try will be awarded the win. Loughborough were unbeaten and formidable. The match was even and if anything OA’s were being beaten to and at the breakdown. Play went from end to end, with Loughborough taking advantage of an overlap and scoring the first try! In a testament to the players, they came straight back and pilled on the pressure, but the defensive line speed was quick and the tackles well made. However, just before half time OA’s equaled the score with a kick through, chase, kick on, pick up and grounding, great individual effort.

The second was played largely in the Loughborough half, but they stood strong, defended well and broke away and made ground numerous times, only to get pinned back in their half. With 2 minutes to play OA’s had them pinned on the 5 metre line, wave after wave of attack yielded nothing. Then with 30 seconds to play OA’s drove over the try line, but…. The referee said he did not see a grounding! However, the match officials were society referees and the linesman stepped in and advised the ref that he saw the grounding and the try should be awarded……. Loughborough raced up for the restart, OA’s took the ball cleanly and went to ground, the ball was recycled and kicked to touch, OA’s win.

Congratulations to all the squad for all their hard work, exceptional sportsmanship and teamwork. I have purposely not named anyone above as for me this was a total team effort. The squad: John Mc, Guy, Marcus, Tim, Tom Mc, Will, Scott, James D, Joe, Ryan, Ellis, Toby, Tom J, Sasha, Tom H, Christiaan, Harry, James S, James Mc, Alex, Louis and Ollie.

My thanks to Michelle for all her hard work organizing everything and everyone, to all those who contributed through sponsorship or time, to all the coaches and finally to everyone who toured, your made it thoroughly enjoyable.