The time had come!
It had a been a long time in the planning – meetings, fundraising events and organisation behind the scenes finally came to fruition this Easter as 21 excited Under 14s and their “responsible’ adults boarded the coach and set off for Hilversum Rugby Club in Holland for the International Youth Rugby Festival 2023 for their first tour experience.
It was an early start leaving the club at the crack of dawn on Good Friday to beat the Easter Holiday traffic and try and get ahead of the well documented delays at Dover. Passports scanned the tour kit was delivered and a coach load of excited players and parents settle in for the long journey by coach, ferry then coach through France and finally into Holland and the Centre Parcs De Eemhof Holiday Village.
The next day in Holland was about settling in, recovering from the journey, a training session for the players but mainly preparation for the evening’s entertainment! It was serious competition for the “Pirates of the Caribbean” themed fancy dress competition, followed by the “Upton Court of Assizes” presided over by “Circuit Judge Chief Baron Sir Edward Ward”.
Day three was Festival Day! An early start to register for the 10am start of play.
Upton’s first opponent was Blaenavon RFC from Wales. It was a thrilling game and one that had the spectators on the edge of their seats. Both teams’ defence was impeccable with no quarter given. After 20 minutes of play the final score 0-0. A fair result.
The second game was against LRC Diok from the Nederland’s. After the confidence boosting game against Blaenavon the lads settled down and got into their stride and started to play Fijian style rugby. Forwards gained possession of the ball delivering to the backs who had a great time throwing the ball around before it eventually went to the golden hands of Callum Letties who scored all the points for Upton in that game. Final score was 24 – 7 to Upton.
Upton’s third game saw them facing RFC Haarlem, again from the Nederland’s. Upton were now in the mindset of not ‘will we win’? but ‘by how much’?!’ However, Haarlem had other ideas, either frustrating our pack going forward in the scrum or winning line outs. It was a scrappy game as both teams were beginning to tire. Upton eventually started to gain the upper hand and began to recycle the ball out to the backs more quickly. This tactic allowed us to run in 2 consecutive tries to see the score finish at 14-0 to Upton.
With two wins and a draw Upton found its self in the Plate Final against Amstelveense RC from Belgium. Upton had a good rest by the time of the final and new a victory was in their grasp. Upton, now composed went back to their Fijian style of play, throwing the ball around and enjoying every moment of play. No player wanted to come off the pitch! Some immense tackles and rucking by the forwards proved too much of a defence to allow Amstelveen to score. The final score was a healthy 19-0 win for Upton.
What a result!
Post match celebrations saw players, coaches and parents dancing away the evening to the sounds of disco beats.
Once the dancing and celebrations had stopped it was back onto the coach and to the resort for the Tour Awards.
Players and coaches changed into their shirt and club ties in anticipation of a great evening. There were four awards for grabs:
- Player of the Tour
- Clubman Award
- Tackle of the Tour
- Try of the Tour
And the winners were:
- Ethan Hayward – Player of the Tour
- Billy Wilesmith – Clubman award
- Tackle of the Tour – Callum Letties
- Try of the Tour – Jenson Letties
All too soon it was time to pack. Tired, delighted and full of fantastic memories, the coach load of happy players, proud parents and delighted coaches caught up on some much-needed sleep on the journey home.
Huge thanks to Junior Chairman Pete Dobbin for making it happen and Steve Avery and Living with the Lions Sports Tours for their amazing organisation. Thank you also to the coaches and parents for the unwavering support!