U16s tour to Bath - Rugby was the real winner!
By Steve Ratcliffe
The U16s went to tour Bath for an amazing weekend of Rugby, Rugby and more Rugby. Who could ask for more?
Touring is something of a speciality for this year's U16s group who have made running successful visits to classic Rugby locations a key part of the age group's experience. It goes without saying that only the edited highlights are fit to print; what goes on tour stays on tour - but this one had it all.
Bath was our chosen venue, the short travel time suiting the boys' GCSE schedule this year, but what a place for great Rugby it proved to be.
Friday evening saw us motoring down the A303, with tickets for the Bath vs Sarries match hot in our clammy mitts. The Rec is a classic Rugby ground, nestling as it does in the bosom of the Georgian city, and a match there is a must see for any rugby fan. Bath's season had been a bit mixed this year so far and they found themselves 8th in the table before the match but an epic win in wet conditions over the mighty Sarries side was a fit and proper way to start the U16s tour. Clearly, Bath had taken inspiration from the giant killing talents of the Farnham U16 boys and by winning, jumped 3 places in the premiership table to 5th place and crucially, if that position can be maintained, a return to the Heineken European Rugby Championship next year. Come on you Baaaaatttthhhhhhh!
Saturday morning saw the U16s return to the Rec for a coaching session with the Bath academy coaches who gave the boys a very useful workout, concentrating on attacking the space, as opposed to finding the biggest bloke on the pitch and running directly into him as most of us do/have done!
On Saturday afternoon, the Saracen's Head provided a superb venue for watching Wales narrowly beat the Scots in the 6 nations and Bath's finest winger, Big Joe Cokanasiga, almost single handedly trash Italy in an England shirt rather than his usual Blue, Black and White.
Saturday evening saw the Boys and their long suffering parents in various states of Musically themed fancy dress for a trip to Bristol's Za Za Bazzar for an amazing all you can eat dining experience with entertainment in the form of Karaoke in the style of your fancy dress artiste.
That just left Sunday morning for a trip to our most excellent hosts Corsham Rugby Club (which confusingly is no longer in Corsham!) for a tri- cornered friendly match alongside another touring team, Woodford RFC from Essex. The three sides plus a talented BaBa's side culled from the spare players from both the hosts and the touring sides played three 20 min matches each and fittingly, the BaBas side was deemed the winner after a fizzing display of Champagne (well, Cheap Prosecco anyway) rugby.
The trip home was painless and so brought yet another fantastic touring weekend to a close.
All that remains is the big list of thank you's. Firstly a massive thank you to Dominic Parker for putting the tour together, ably assisted by Rebecca and Antonia. Also a huge "Merci" to our coaches, Sam, Dominic (again), Al, Niall, Ross, Mike, Jeremy and anyone else I've missed for working so hard to give our boys the best possible rugby experience and to instil "rugby values". A big cheer also for the sponsors of our Tour Stash - Another age group speciality organised again this year by J C-H. Thanks also to our coach driver for the weekend, Kris with a K, who managed to maintain his sense of humour against all odds. And a big hand to the staff of the YMCA who wore out their only plunger unblocking the building's ageing plumbing. Thank you to Tim and Patrick who went above and beyond the call of duty in volunteering to occupy the Leader's room next to the Boy's dorm. No doubt they will catch up on their lost hours of sleep in due course. In the same vein a massive round of applause to all of the parents - A better group we could not wish to have. A very big hand must go to our hosts for Sunday morning, Corsham Rugby Club who were incredibly generous with their time in looking after us. It's a major part of the touring experience to make new friends and we came home having made a superb connection with the club. We hope to be able to return the favour one day soon. And finally, thank you to the Boys. They may at times have been a challenge (and approximately 4am Saturday morning was definitely one of those times!) but as parents we should be and I'm sure are all immensely proud of their attitude, their spirit and their raw ability. They will all go far in life and experiences like this one are character forming.
So, a weekend packed to the gills with rugby in a city with a different pub for every day of the year (we didn't see all of them, honest). One for the memory banks for sure.