Farnham U14s tour to France ends shockingly without diplomatic incident
By Steve Ratcliffe
The U14s tour to France saw the boys playing some superb rugby whilst the old(er) boys (and girls) exercised their livers - Un bon weekend? Oui!
This was not just a Tour; this was an Under 14s Tour. Every mouthful oozing with unctuous moments. Joy, Rapture, Filthy Jokes - It had it all. Usually what happens on tour, stays on tour but it would be unjust if I were not to lift the corner of the curtain and allow you the merest glimpse behind the scenes.
Thanks once again to the unerring organisational abilities of Antonia Cochrane and the rest of the tour committee, 70 odd U14s and their irresponsible adult minders gathered at the club on Friday afternoon to join the coach to Folkstone bound for lovely Lille in northern France. Antonia had arranged a Burgundy and Silver coloured £600k double decker Luxo Liner, so new it was only on its second outing, to whisk us away and it only seemed like moments later that we were boarding the Euro-Star for Lille.
Our driver, Matt (aka "Coachie") was supernaturally keen to maintain its sparkling new condition; a goal not helped by a small trip through a bush at Maidstone services (who packed the T-Cut?) nor the fact that this was a coach load of Rugby Tourists! He was always going to have his work cut out I fear...
After an attempt to deliver us to the wrong Novotel, possibly in revenge for the suggestion of using his virginal microwave to heat a stinky Camembert cheese courtesy of stylish tourists Doug and Ross, and then trying to impress us all with his ability to reverse his way to our hotel all the way from the Lille peripherique, we eventually checked-in. Soon enough raiding parties were dispatched to seek out the local hostelries. Many Lille bar-owners were subsequently seen making calls to their travel agents to book 1st class cruises on the sudden unexpected increase in their profit margins.
After an excellent hotel breakfast the following morning and a stroll around the beautiful Flanders city of Lille (Time for a "Coffee" anyone?), Sam and Jeremy gathered the motley crew for the traditional distribution of tour stash. Thanks once again to our generous sponsors for the tour shirts, smart polos, boot bags and coaches jackets and to Jeremy for arranging them all. Shame about the socks but (literally) you can't have it all ;-)
The afternoon was reserved for training at the ground of our Tournament Hosts, L'ovale Rugby Club Marquettois, lille et métropole (fortuitously abbreviated to LORC - Allez les Lorcais!) before returning to the hotel for the evening's grand entertainment; the Best of British fancy dress ball. A motley crew of Policemen & Punks, Kings & Queens, Bacon & Eggs and some rather disturbing Gerri Halliwells took part in the traditional tour Initiation ceremonies and teams were selected for the tour games which involved a distressing amount of shaving foam and cinnamon.
Sunday brought an early start for those with thick heads as registration opened at 8:45am for the 18 teams playing in the "10eme Tournoi International Chalenge Pierre Delorme (U14) GMF". We delivered two fearsome mixed teams from our U14 squad, imaginatively named Farnham 1 and 2 (in Sam's defence it had been a late night!) ready to compete against teams from France, Belgium and Holland as well as two teams from nearer home; Yorkshire's Old Brodleighans and Lancashire's Leigh Rugby.
Both teams played some incredible rugby. Farnham 1 came a very creditable second in their pool, losing only narrowly to the pool winners and Farnham 2 topped their pool after beating all comers. A superb performance by both teams. Second place in their pool put Farnham 1 in the plate semi which they lost against Leigh and from there into the 3rd/4th playoff against the Blue and Yellow Ottignies team from Belgium. After a titanic struggle, a superb "essai" from Theo Lees delivered a win and a trophy for 3rd in the plate comp which captain Charlie Cochrane collected on the team's behalf to wild adulation from the crowd.
The Farnham 2 team won their Semi-final against the green team from Comite Du Nord which put them into the Cup Final vs reigning Delorme Champions, the impressive looking Old Brodleighans. The Yorkshire lads (Yorkshire, Yorkshire, Yorkshire etc...) clearly played a lot of Rugby League; their defensive line speed was incredibly fast and try as they might, Farnham 2s couldn't break it down. After a very even match, the OB's scooted through a tiring Farnham line and scored the only try of the game. What a great day and thanks must go to our hosts LORC for getting 18 international teams together for a fantastic opportunity to play international running rugby. Even better for the future of English rugby that four of the strongest teams in the tournament were from England and two of those from Farnham!
The organisers congratulated both finalists and awarded the 2s a magnificent trophy for second place in the tournament, collected by captain Chris Ratcliffe, on behalf of his magnificent team. On behalf of the club, Sam Foskett awarded the organisers a Farnham club tie and plaque by way of a small thank you for their excellent hospitality. Both trophies were proudly carried back to the hotel, ready for Hanging Judge Cochrane's Kangaroo Tour Court to sit in judgement over the assembled offenders. Judge Cochrane is not known for his leniency (or indeed his sobriety ;-) and the Policemen and Snitches had wheedled out a number of heinous crimes which fortunately tour court rules on client confidentiality prevent me from disclosing. With Louis Thomas QC acting for the prosecution and Will Mylcreest QC defending, a major miscarriage of justice was in the stars. Fortunately, punishments in the form of glasses of "swamp water", plates of "horrible food" and yet more cinnamon were there to teach the guilty parties a valuable lesson in not getting caught!
Another late night was fortunately followed by a bank-holiday Monday lie-in and a leisurely breakfast before Coachie whizzed us off back to the Euro-Star and home to a drizzly Farnham. On the way home Sam and Dominic congratulated the boys on the fact that they have done their club proud all season but never more so than over the course of this weekend as Tourists and representatives of Farnham and the Best of British. Well done again boys.
So another great tour in the bag. Done. Next year, our tour of the 6 Nations continues by taking on our wode caked Scottish brethren north of the border.
Bring it on.
See you all at the awards ceremony!