By Franky Barker
The boys returned home triumphant from Guernsey late on Sunday evening following an unforgettable 72 hours in the Channel which marks the start of Marshall’s first full season at the helm.
The drama began at Terminal 1 early on Friday morning where we all just about made it through security to board the flight in time.
A Rude Awakening
An hour later we touched down and any sleepy heads were soon given a rude awakening as the “Party Bus” blazed out Bon Jovi during the 5 minute transfer to the hotel (presumably the island’s only coach operator!)
After meandering around St Peter Port and a bite to eat, we had the chance to shake the journey out of our legs with a sharp training session and a captain’s run.
The drama began to unfold however as our industriously athletic tighthead Pooley was admitted to hospital with what can only be described as an enormously swollen leg.
Following an afternoon of leisure spent playing boules, frisbee or relaxing by the pool, we had the talent show: “Macc’s got talent”.
Macc’s Got Talent
Friday evening saw a variety of sensational acts, from musicals to interpretive dance and even poetry readings. However, there could only be one winner as Matt Thorpe and newcomer Jordan Simpson re-enacted John Travolta and Olivia Newton John in a cringingly wooden performance which took everyone far out of their comfort zones!
On Saturday Morning, it had become apparent that we had lost Pooley to injury. This, compounded by the fact that not all of the lads were available to make the tour (either through availability or self-funding) meant that we would be starting the day with a squad of 17. Even the coaching and support staff stepped up as they came to terms with the possibility of a cameo off the bench!
We packed our bags and headed for Footes Lane to take on a buoyant Guernsey Raiders who had recently won promotion up to National League 2 South.
As the 2 sides warmed up, it became apparent that Guernsey had a full training squad of 28 lads while we were down to bare bones with only 17. However this wouldn’t deter the lads and with a few carefully placed rotations, we were able to keep boys fresh and avoid any further injuries.
Macc kicked off to Guernsey and we quickly pinned them back and applied early pressure, opting for the corner over points as an opportunity to test our lineout build. However the men in green withstood the assault and were able to clear their lines, using the first half wind well to their advantage.
The boys in blue were tested at scrum time and had to quickly fight and adapt against an experienced and powerful Guernsey pack which earned the hosts an early penalty try.
As the half wore on, the boys showed fantastic resilience, grit and determination typified by the new Glossop contingent who were at the heart of a defensive set on our own line of 20+ phases.
The lads were unlucky however to concede just out wide before half time to trail 12-0.
Having grafted hard all of the first half, during the break the boys took heart, knowing they had more left in the tank and with the second half wind, 12-0 was an assailable gap.
We kicked to the corner early on to test our maul against the raider’s pack. After the initial arm-wrestle, I stole over with a poacher’s try reminiscent of a young Dave Marwick.
The lads grew in confidence and shortly afterwards we were driving forward into their 22 again, this time for Dan Matthews, showing incredible leg drive to take several of the Guernsey defenders with him from 10 yards.
Hitting Our Straps…
The earlier typical pre-season narrative of “no pressure rugby” and the “score doesn’t matter today” soon went out the window as the team grew tighter and leading 14-12 the boys really started to play and entertain the crowd with some great running rugby.
A lineout off the top with a big midfield carry then saw the ball reach the versatile Pete Milne who appears to have made the transition seamlessly to winger. Last year’s second team player of the year had no problem finding the line after the draw and give from James Hampson.
Skipper Tom Morton and 17 year-old debutant scrum half Josh Burke were at the heart of everything. Another flowing team move saw Sam Broster ghost through the blindside of a ruck to cross under the sticks and take the final score to 26-12.
The boys played fantastically as a team and for us to have that result so early on with a lot of new faces, bodes well for the coming weeks.
But the point of the weekend was not only rugby focused, Marshall had anticipated that we would take away more in terms of team building off the field than on it. The reality was that in enjoying ourselves off the pitch, we came together and performed to our potential on it.
Now the rugby was out of the way, we had a victory to celebrate which started in the club house as we were challenged again by the Raiders, but this time in a series of boat races. The evening kicked on and we were warmly welcomed by the islanders as talked turned to how we can develop this fixture even further next year by bringing an extended squad including a colts side…
10am the next morning and remarkably everyone had made it to breakfast! All we had to do was get to the airport… We gathered ourselves and prepared to depart only to be told: “The Party Bus Driver doesn’t work on Sundays” – Such is life in the Channel!