Well, we made it! What a fantastic weekend the boys had up in the glorious Derbyshire Dales.

On Friday 4th May, we departed school and headed up the M1. On arrival at the youth hostel, we all marvelled at the palatial surroundings YHA IDSC_0026loreslam Hall, just outside Ashbourne,  had to offer. This was going to be our home and tour base for the next three days.
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Friday, 6:30pm. GAME 1. The hosts, Highfields School of Matlock, had put up a small yet very strong team for the first encounter. Having spent most of the afternoon on the minibus (listening to Mr Peters’ and Mr Smyth’s singing) the boys were looking a little weary before the game. Having conceded an early try in the first seven minutes, the boys struggled from there and didn’t really get into their stride. Despite a few chances to pick the game up by the scruff of the neck and start running with the ball in hand, too many simple mistakes and handling errors gave the opposition more territory and possession than they should have had. This meant our boys couldn’t really build the phases and gain the possession they badly needed to get into the opposition’s 22. Mr Peters’ infamous half-time team talk wasn’t enough to lift the boy’s spirits on this occasion and the game finished 48-0 to the hosts. The boys returned to base very tired but encouragingly and typically up beat.

Saturday. An early start for the drive to Leicester. Still smelling with the pungent aroma of pickled onion Monster Munch coupled with the subtle diffusion of something only sitting in a minibus for hours on end can muster, we boarded the minibus for the drive to Leicester Tigers’ training ground.

First stop was the training ground at Wygeston and QE College. The boys all enjoyed a 90 minute training session with a Tigers coach but still looking rather forlorn following the defeat to Highfields School the previous evening, some struggled to make it through the session. After lunch, we strolled to Welford Road, Leicester Tigers’ home ground. On arrival, the lads were treated to a Q&A session with the Tiger’s 2nd row Ed Slater. Managing to avoid questions like “What’s your girlfriend like?”, “How many sports cars have you got?” and “How much do you earn?”, the boys gained a fascinating insight into the life of a professional rugby player.

The afternoon game between Leicester Tigers and Bath was a real experience. Sitting just behind the goal posts. the boys took it in turns to catch the balls some of the Bath players were kicking over during the pre-match warm-up. The game itself was an excellent encounter. At half time the boys were allowed to walk on the pitch and have their photograph taken in front of 28,ooo people! The 28-3 win for Leicester ensured a home semi-final play-off clash with Saracens on 12th May.

Sunday, 11:00am. Game 2. The stage was set for a big showdown with the Matlock RFC U13s following the defeat to Highfields School. Knowing they would be facing many of the same players from game 1, the lads were much more confident about their chances following a good night’s sleep. The sun shone over Cromford Meadows, a spectacular backdrop for a rugby match and the boy’s spirits were lifted all the more when they found out Mr Peters wouldn’t be refereeing this match! The team looked a completely different one from the Friday and took their chances when they had them. Their handling, tackling and teamwork was 100% better this time and an early score set up by some excellent forwards play saw Harrow Way take a decisive lead. Soon after, captain Finlay Waite scored the tourists’ second try and successfully converted it to make it 14-0 to the visitors. Following a further try from Finlay and one from Joseph Joy, the team secured a much deserved victory over the home side by winning 36-0.

After the game, the hosts very generously provided a lunch for the players and staff . This was a lovely end to what had been a superb morning of rugby. At the tour presentation ceremony, Mr Peters, Mr Reed and Mr Smyth highlighted the magnificent efforts of the players and commended them highly on their behaviour and courage on tour. The ‘Players’ Player of the Tour’ was awarded to James Coward for an awesome exhibition of tackling during game 2. The ‘Coaches’ Player of the Tour’ was awarded to Jonny Ireland. Elliott Knights won the prize for the worst impression of a salmon on tour (don’t ask!).

This has been an excellent first tour for the Harrow Way Rugby Squad and what made it all the more successful was the way in which the players demonstrated an exemplorary attitude throughout. It was a real pleasure to have had the four dads David Ireland, Kevin Ingram, Kevin Joy and Graeme Eaton accompany us on tour and I know the boys really appreciated the support they gave.

My huge thanks to both Mr Smyth and Mr Reed for their excellent support in ensuring a hugely successful tour.