BSN travelled to England for the Chichester International Mini Rugby Tournament to play the finest teams in the South-East.
The rugby tournament rules were different to those in the Netherlands, but the Benjis and Turvens fielded BSN teams in the U9s and U11s age groups, as well as supplying players to English U7 and U12 teams.
Friends were made, songs were sung, tries were scored (and conceded), and games were won over the weekend. The BSN players, coaches and supporters did the team proud. The tournament and overall event will stay long in the memory.
The first word should go to Andy the organiser, sender of five million emails, player/composer of team songs and consumer of mashed potato. He did a fantastic job making the rugby tour happen and all that follows is in large part thanks to him and the BSN associations.
Having collected the kids from school on Friday, the squad travelled by bus (without tables) to Calais. Waiting for the ferry, no time was wasted and the rugby balls were out for an impromptu game at the terminal.
Although the journey was long to South-East England, spirits were high. Descending on the hotel just before 9pm, the receptionist, bar and kitchen staff (all the same person) were a little overwhelmed by the order of food for 37. The food came, the kids crashed and everyone got some sleep before the tournament started the next day.
The Chichester International Mini Rugby Tournament ran for two days over the first weekend in May. BSN joined three teams from London in Battersea Ironside, Old Wimbeldonians and Old Elthamanians, as well as Bancroft from Essex, Barnet from Middlesex, and Old Cranleighans from Surrey. The tournament started with a parade of the teams and a recital of the rugby oath, before the games got underway. Having looked at the weather forecasts, the BSN parents had all brought raincoats rather than sunscreen, but there was classic May bank holiday weather, creating a typical English setting of cotton wool clouds and sunshine, oak trees and cathedral spires. Not everything was so easy; the pitches were more lumpy than the team were used to in the Netherlands and the rugby tournament rules were different too.
BSN U9s 2-4 Old Cranleighans Blue: The U9s (nines and under) were made up of four second-year Turvens, one first-year Turven and two Benjis. With new rules to master, including the seven-try turnover rule, BSN did well to find themselves only two down at half time. But, they quickly found their feet and driven on by Leyla and Archie, who always wanted the ball, they drew the second half and were finishing the stronger team. Leyla scored the first try on Chichester soil – historic, but just a sign of what was to come!
BSN U9s 2-3 Old Elthamians A: One all at half time, the moral score should have been 2-1, with Archie denied by some dodgy try line marking, when clean through. BSN put in some great tackles against a bigger side and displayed superior handling and passing. Old Eltham edged the second half scores with a try at the death.
BSN U9s 6-5 Old Wimbledonian Warriors: It was three all at half time with tries from Leyla and Archie. The scores had been tit-for-tat, with each side taking turn to score. In the second half, Sean scored from the restart with the Sponge Bob move. BSN held the Warriors until the seventh tackle and Archie scored from the turnover restart. The Warriors evened it up at five apiece until a diagonal run from Archie took BSN to a historic win.
BSN U9s 2-4 Old Wimbledonian Warriors C: The U9s last game on Saturday was against the eventual tournament winners. The Warriors had too much speed and BSN were 3-1 down at half time. But, they held their own in the second half. Leyla was nearly in with a break down the wing to make the scores closer, but she was caught a couple of metres from the line.
The U11s had tough games on big pitches with new rules including an unfamiliar kicking game and contested scrums. The team was made up of second year Benjis and they often found themselves playing against first year Minis.
BSN U11s 0-6 Old Wimbledonian Warriors: The first game was a baptism of fire. Five down at half time, BSN did not let their heads drop and found their intensity, holding the warriors in the second half with Jamal, Duncan and Rory putting in the tackles. Rory nearly got a try, but BSN were pulled back for taking a penalty too quickly – another subtle rule difference.
BSN U11s 3-0 Old Wimbledonian Warriors: BSN maintained their intensity from the second half of the previous game and won their first match of the tournament with Daniel and Duncan scoring first half tries. Hunting the ball, BSN kept the Warriors out with their good defensive team play.
The kids weren’t the only ones playing. A flotsam and jetsam team of international veterans were joined by two locals for the parent’s tag rugby matches at lunchtime. Two games were played, but BSN scored no tries despite Ian being clean through before falling on his backside short of the line and Daran also being clean through before he was pulled back for some misdemeanour. Not all of the parents joined in with the games: Timo, Roger, Karen, Palimo, Mel, Christina, Kathrin and Victoria all being occupied by other pressing priorities. Vincent also did not make the team; having unfortunately indulged in one too many burgers from the van: the French love the English cuisine!
There was still time for the coaches to fulfil their post-match press duties, before the squad headed back to the hotel and then set out on a tour of Portsmouth (courtesy of Kevin Charlton). Who will ever forget the old-IBM building, the Porsche garage or the radar thing on the hill.
After a couple of false starts, Saturday night supper was eventually secured with an industrial fish and chips order. The hotel did not object to BSN bringing the food back, given their struggle on Friday night to feed the five thousand – has Cedric’s burger arrived yet? It was a late night and the players were sleepy on Sunday morning.
U9s 0-4 Old Wimbledonian Warriors B: The team slept through the first half and found themselves three down against the eventual tournament runner’s up. Still dreaming of fish and chips, they had forgotten the new rules. The coaches brought them round and the intensity came back in second half, but they could not find a way through to score.
U9s 5-4 Old Elthamians: The cobwebs were shook off. It was two each at half time thanks to two breaks by Archie. There was some great tackling by Jamie, counting off nearly all seven tackles on Old Eltham for a turnover. Christopher was nearly in for a try, but a covering tackle put him into touch. Leyla then made a great pickup and pass to Archie, who stepped inside for the fifth try, which meant that the Old Elthamians late try counted for nothing.
U9s 4-2 Old Wimbeldonian Warriors A: Another fine BSN performance, but it was finely balanced until a seventh tackle turnover deep in defence at 3-2 led to Archie sprinting away to seal the win 4-2.
U9s 1-2 Old Cranleighans Gold: The U9s last game of the day was a tight, even game. Everyone was exhausted. BSN were down to five players at one point, when Leyla lost a mouth guard and Archie took a big hit. Both got back on the pitch; they wouldn’t stay away. No quarter was given and players from both sides needed attention. There was good defensive cover from both teams and it was hard to get through. One all at half time, the OCs scored from the restart. Christopher was nearly in at the corner, but bundled into touch on the seventh tackle. Both teams had nothing left to give. A good match; BSN deserved a draw at least!
U11s 3-4 Barnet: Like the U9s, they started sleepily and would have won if they had played from the beginning like they finished. Jamal scored in the first half with a break down the wing beating the covering tackle with a fantastic body swerve. From a penalty in the second half, Alexander drew in the tacklers and served up a perfect offload to Duncan. Erben was in for a short range try, but was pulled back for a knock on in the build up. There was too much to do and Barnet had time to score the winner into the corner.
U11s 4-6 Old Wimbledonian Warriors: The U11s last game was against the team they played in the first match on Saturday. The first match had been a 6-0 defeat, but this was a close contest, showing how the team had gelled and got used to the new rules over the weekend. BSN finished strong and had the better of the second half. Competitive rugby.
Although BSN only had teams in the U9s and U11s, they also had players in the U7s and U12s competitions. Diego joined Old Wimbledonian Warriors for the U7s tags and probably won more games than any other BSN player with his team finishing fourth out of 16 competing in the age group! His name was chanted long into the night on the bus ride home.
Joy and Cillian joined Bancroft U12s. They were made to feel fully part of the club and now both signed up with a five year contract!
With all the matches completed, the press came calling for interviews; looking for good quotes and insights from the players. They found no shortage of willing interviewees in the BSN ranks and may have to spend some time editing the final footage!
As soon as the shields and trophies were handed out, the squad was straight onto the bus for the long trip home, taking the scenic route through Surrey countryside before heading to the Channel Tunnel and on to France, Belgium and eventually the Overbosch car park in the early hours of Monday morning.
A great trip. When’s the next one!