Macclesfield Rugby took 44 players and supporters to Gibraltar where we played against the Royal Navy and won. We have a 100% record there, played one, won one, lost nil, scored six tries conceded four. A hugely enviable record!
The tour was major success organised mainly by Jason Walker backed by his committee of Jeremy Bostock, Jim Welch, Simon Street and Louis Smith with financial backing from sponsors Thompson Wright, Chartered Accountants and Thirst Aid wine importers who deserve our thanks for their helpful financial assistance which kept costs down for the party members.
The committee handled all the arrangements to make everything dovetail together brilliantly from our early arrival at Manchester Airport on Friday morning, the flights, the accommodation, local liaison with the opposition, bus tour of Gibraltar the transfer to Malaga for a final night in Spain.
Rugby tours have long been part of he infastructure of the sport and everyone involved in the oval ball game has at least one tour on his CV. Touring appeals to all age groups, plenty in their 20s, the youngest Alfie Wright at 21 through to a 76 years old with a good spread of 30s, 40s, 50s and sixties. There were four different sets of fathers and sons, the Avery’s, Dave, Danny and Sam, the Grants Simon and Harry, the Bancrofts Martin and Sam and the Hopkins both called Richard. This latter actually both played in the game.
Everyone had a designated role to play with a variety of importance from Jeremy Bostock as minder of the kitty money through Louis Smith as MC to Steve Mannion as misdemeanours judge, he was aided by Rob McLeod and Chris Cleave as tour snitches. Other duties being photographer Alan Cope, chemist Dave Cowan’s, ambassador USA based Nick Richardson, fire officer Simon Street and choirmaster Dave Teale. Other duties were successfully completed but as the rule states what happens on tour stays on tour so some high jinks cannot be repeated here.
Of the match our captain Jason Walker won the kick off and chose to play with the considerable wind and out of a whole team of 30 players we started with arguably our strongest 15. By the end of the first quarter Macclesfield had scored three tries through Sam Bancroft, Phil Laing and Nick Smith, although for this try Laing did all the clever evasive running before passing to Smith who only needed to touch down.
By half time we had scored another two tries through Rick Hopkin and George Elphick , another who had a easy score. Up till then Elphick had spent more time being fiesty to the opposition and making verbal demands of the match officials.
The second half saw a good number of replacements as the skipper tried to give everyone 40 minutes game time. This was good as all the players wanted as much time on the pitch as possible but it did disrupt the rhythm. Paul Smith moved to No 9 spot and did his usual haranguing of the referees, never short of a word of advice in trying to help the umpires make a decision to his benefit.
In the final quarter the scores got close until Alfie Wright, on his first rugby tour, scored the last try. A brilliant long run outpacing the Gibraltar defence from the halfway line to bring roars of approval from our many supporters. During this last quarter your reporter was the referee to bring to a close his 29 year long career with the whistle. He now moves into retirement to concentrate on his new career as sports journalist.
This victory is an excellent away win for the tourists. The Navy were very fit, younger than us, fast and well coached. They had plenty of moves straight off the training ground. It was a tough hard match but played in a lovely atmosphere of hard tackling, skilful open running with plenty of humourous exchanges.
As an apres match the Navy entertained us to a BBQ and singing competition with lots of well deserved alcoholic lubrication. They were exactly the correct opposition for a successful tour game.
The whole party then moved into town to continue the conviviality. It was here in one hostelry that hooker Rufus Dixon was interviewed live on Gibraltar TV to supply his take on how Parliament was handling Brexit. He was quite confident himself except the tours comedians Andy Leigh, Mark Marshall, Alan Hope and Dougie Brown kept interrupting his flow in front of the cameras to make sure it was a very amusing interview.
Occasionally the level got slightly raucous but generally everyone behaved well and the entire party bonded together. Apologies to those tourists not mentioned this is due to memory lapses by the reporter.
All the participants have pledged themselves to a willingness to your in 2020. Next year’s venue has not been decided but will be to an emerging rugby nation. Now we’re all off on our summer activities before next season commences in September.