“Tours energise and bond clubs like nothing else, so pleased to be part of this one!”
Michael "Rhino" Whitfield
A tale of three tours…in France. The 1’s and 2’s (and a few old farts), The Occies and the U16’s all ventured to France – this is how they got on!
At the end of a tough season it was a delight to see three sides from Barnes RFC venture across le Manche to all play French oppo.
This is what rugby clubs should do, and we did!
Here are a few highlights from each of the tours.
The 1st and 2nd XV take on Bordeaux (and not just the wine!).
Adam Libbey and Freddie Stockwell brilliantly organised a mixed tour of 1st and 2nd XV players to Bordeaux, accompanied by a dozen or so older gentlemen lead by Rhino and Neil Hay.
The party bonded very quickly on our first senior tour since 2009 would you believe and took in many of the beautiful sights on show in Bordeaux, we even managed a wine tour to Chateau Coutet and a stroll through the medieval village of St Emillion…on the rugby front we swapped games at an alarming rate but thanks to Barnes legend Neil Hempsall we managed to get a hastily arranged last minute fixture on our third day of tour. It was 11am Sunday morning, with a roasting hot sun beating down on the gathered players who looked less than enthusiastic. Wen the game kicked off it was clear that the lads from FC Eysines had not turned up to make up numbers. Mobile, robust and quick, they boshed up the middle and this was not going to be any stroll dans le parc!
The lead bounced backwards and forwards between the teams, Captain Jamie Collins set the example and scored twice and Paul Spencer rolled back the years, beating 4 players with his sidestep before dotting down in his brief spell on the pitch..and in the end, whilst a draw may have been a fairer result, Barnes did emerge victorius 40-38. FC Eysines put the game on in 48 hours and looked after us with multitudinous beers and a Barbie.. it was a brilliant tour with a bunch of brilliant lads, and the old gits did ok too!
With the 1st and 2nd XV’ tour in full swing in Bordeaux the Occies chose Toulouse as their French city of choice.
Here are some of the highlights:
- The brave and gallant rescue of a dog’s favourite tennis ball from a building site (though we’ll overlook the lack of hand-eye coordination involved in how that ball ended up in the site in the first place)
- Our hotel was next to the Toulouse Business School, meaning that all manner of lunchtime business deals that needed to be clinched ahead of the weekend risked being derailed by a procession of Occies bombing into the hotel pool alongside and by the skimming of our beach rugby ball across the water.
- At the request of some of our antipodean brethren, a cultural excursion was made to Byron Kelleher’s bar, the “Haka Corner”. He wasn’t there.
On the day of the game itself, we made our way to the stadium and introduced ourselves to an opposition that, due to a misunderstanding, had been waiting for us since 1pm - when in true Occies style, we arrived there at 2.45, barely half an hour before KO. We had arranged a game against Toulouse Athletic Club who, despite having not won a single game the season before, had had a much better season this time round, plus fortified themselves with some south sea islanders for the occasion. The pack in particular was as gnarly and terrifying as any French pack of old, which made it all the more surprising when at the first scrum we were warned for threatening to move them back by more than a metre, a penalty offence in France.
What can you say about a game at which we scored a point a minute, and yet left another handful of tries at least on the park? Both teams played with elan and verve, though no one’s heart was in defensive duties.
With 7 minutes to go, we had scored 8 tries, and yet weren’t even within a losing bonus point of the opposition - so we stiffened up the sinews, and scored 3 tries - the last one, the last play of the game, was scored by a hooker who had been lent to us by the oppo.
The final score was 69 to 64 in our favour - not bad for a 70min match!
The traditional French “troisieme mi-temps” then followed – the potatoes were chipped and fried, the Toulouse sausage was unfurled and put on the pitchside BBQ, and the flagons of 1664 were filled and then emptied. We introduced them to the joys of a post-match court session, they introduced us to the swirling alchemy of Ricard pastis. Pennants, ties and shields were exchanged between the teams, as were shirts of various hue (at varying rates of exchange – Huw got a brand new Stade Toulousain top in exchange for a Barnes polo, while Jonny only got the ref’s away kit in exchange for his), and national anthems (and indeed national war dances, due to Sam Cross being a disgrace to his people) were joyously butchered.
And the U16’s went on tour to France too to Versailles…
In the junior section We played Versailles U16s – a year older and a bunch of big, strong skilful lads. Unfortunately, despite scoring 3 cracking tries we lost 41-21. Lots for us to work on but a fantastic group of boys that really enjoy playing for each other.
Updated 18:15 - 3 Jun 2017 by Michael Whitfield