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As has become customary over the past decade, boys in Year 7 and 8 headed to the Irish capital of Dublin for an intense pre-season rugby tour.
39 boys and four staff boarded the British Airways flight to the Emerald Isle during half-term, braced for the sizeable challenge that lay before them. As well as some gruelling daily training sessions, the U13 A and B teams would confront three of Irelands most prestigious prep schools in Clongowes Wood, Willow Park and Terenure College. Despite the fact that the boys have been training on Thursday nights since September, they knew that they were immediately at a disadvantage as their hosts had been playing regularly together over the past few months. However, this tour is always aimed at more than just honing skills on the paddock. It is a chance for the boys to build a team spirit and bond that only a memorable rugby tour can facilitate both on the pitch and off it, with some fantastic outings including karting, laser-tag, bowling, swimming, Dublin zoo tour and a tour of the national teams Aviva Stadium. Time and time again the benefits of this tour have proven to go far beyond the confines of the rugby field.
It was something of a baptism of fire for both teams against the strong Clongowes teams with the 1st team going down 45-10 and the 2nd team 30-5. There was plenty of encouragement to take from the defeats with some scintillating handling and individual play. In true Danes Hill style, the boys did not let their heads drop and, with morale still high, were eager to get back on the training pitch to improve their results for the remainder of the tour.
The hard work in training clearly paid off as the 1st team comfortably dispatched of Willow Park 48-5 and the 2nd team came agonisingly close to victory, succumbing 10-5 in a thrilling match. There was huge pride noticeable in the changing room after the matches as the boys could see themselves reaping the rewards of their hard work.
The boys were to save their best for last as they fronted up to two very experienced and physical Terenure College sides. Terenures 1st and 2nd teams had enjoyed a very prosperous season and were understandably keen to protect that record against their visitors from across the sea. However, Danes Hill managed to spoil the party with two thrilling and thoroughly deserved victories. In both games, the lead changed hands several times and it was impossible for the spectators to pick a winner. It was in this moment that the boys truly came of age as a team, showing tremendous character to secure their victories. The staff could not have wished for a better end to the tour.
A special mention must also go to the 40 or so hugely dedicated parents who made the long trip over to support their sons, your support made a huge difference. For the boys, the tour was yet again an undeniable success and they should approach the domestic rugby season full of confidence.