A squad of excited if slightly apprehensive U12 and 13 Rugby players met at Danes Hill School for a 7am coach departure to Heathrow on Friday 20th October for this years Senior Rugby Tour to Belfast. The staff coaches also felt much the same as from past tours to Northern Ireland; things have always been very close on the pitch with some passionate and tough opposition!
After a good journey and check in to the hotel, it was straight to a local Rugby club for a blow out the cobwebs training session. The introduction of Mr Skeene as squad strength and conditioning coach certainly worked well with boys having their own training programme booklets to work with in conjunction with fitness programs based on resistance bands. The boys were a credit in this first session, working very hard in team runs and technical play, even after a long days travel! They were certainly rewarded with a great evening of rest and recuperation, traveling to the SEE Belfast stadium to watch an exciting ice hockey match between the Flames and the Giants. After a close Giants win it was back to the hotel for bed in order to be ready for the first match.
Saturday morning saw our first taste of traditional Northern Irish weather! Storm Brian has threatened to cancel the first tour match against Killicomaine, however the host side had fortunately worked very hard to keep pitches match suitable. The three teams arrived at the school ready for a tough, wet and muddy first match, which they certainly all got! The U13 A team won 15:0, with the U12 As loosing narrowly 10:0. Mr Bates U13/12 B team finished the trio of matches with a fantastic 15:5 win! What was very apparent from all three matches was that every boy certainly came ready to play committed and focused Rugby. An example of this was seen in the U13 A match, which after 30 minutes, was still 0:0. Killicomaine proceeded to batter Danes Hills try line for the first 15 minutes of the second half, however the Danes Hill squad held out valiantly making tackle after tackle, which visibly broke the oppositions spirit. Danes Hill then took their opportunity to score the first try of the game, which was quickly followed by a second and then finally a brilliant length of the pitch try to finish! Well done to all boys for a fantastic example of competitive Rugby, a great achievement considering it was the squads first set of matches! An afternoon of swimming, go-karting and indoor football was a great reward for the boys top effort.
Sunday morning started with a squad stretch and fitness session, which was followed by some more Rugby training in preparation for the second match of tour. A full day of activities followed starting with a high roped centre, which included a 30-foot freefall drop, bubble football and finally a trip to the indoor free climbing centre. The tour squad then welcomed supporting parents to the hotel for a drinks reception that evening. On this note, a big thanks to all parents who travelled to support the tour. The Danes Hill touring tradition is always strengthened from some passionate, if at times a little weary support from a parental group whom enjoy the delights Ireland has to offer! Special thanks to Mr and Mrs Patient for organising supporter arrangements.
Monday saw the touring parties second and final tour match against a traditionally very strong Belfast Academy. The host side did not disappoint and we arrived at the very well kept school sports ground to see Belfast Academy boys out warming up ready to play a tough fixture. Once again, the Danes Hill boys fronted up to some visibly tougher opposition than that of the previous fixture. The U13 A team fought back from being three tries down to three tries all! However, Belfast were able step up a gear and produce some excellent running rugby, eventually finishing well-deserved winners 25:15. The U12 A also had a tough match against a physically imposing Belfast Academy side who eventually were comfortable winners. However Mr Murphys side were particularly proud of their strengthened defence and much more organised, attach line. Quite an achievement after only one match. The U12/13 B team match was a closer affair with Danes Hill boys showing some real character in the contact situation, particularly the ruck and maul, which was an area Mr Bates gave the boys to target. Once again, the strength and depth in the Belfast squad prevailed with the host team emerging victorious. Thanks again to our Irish hosts for giving all of the Danes Hill Rugby players the opportunity to take part in three very competitive fixtures. After saying goodbye to parents, the squad enjoyed a final tour meal before a very creative and funny tour awards ceremony, as is tradition on Danes Hill senior tours.
Tuesday saw the final day of tour and a day of travel to be back at Danes Hill School with some great memories, sore bodies and dirty washing for parents. A huge final well done to all boys on tour. Best of luck for the season ahead and to those Year 7 boys, Dublin awaits next year!