Guy’s Hospital Penguins Tour to the Jersey Vets Super 10’s
St. Helier, Jersey, The Channel Isles
6th & 7th October 2018
The first weekend in October is starting to gain cult status amongst the Penguins and this year saw another strong Penguins squad descend on Bergerac’s home to defend their Jersey Veterans 10-a-side Tournament title.
The following morning dawned too early for many and with fog shrouding the airport those players travelling in on Saturday from Southampton were in jeopardy of missing the opening match. The London contingent had no such weather-related problems and I am told Nnamdi Chinye and Chris Howell had a lovely time browsing the local garden centre for hardy perennials before the rugby started.
Fortunately the winds of fortune dissipated the fog, the remainder of the squad arrived with seconds to spare and with the Penguins treated to a few words of inspiration from their Captain they began the defence of their title.
It was clear from the outset that the Penguins were one of the strongest teams at the tournament. The combination of agile forwards, able to grind the opposition down as well as being able to handle and run like backs, combined with a mercurial back line pivoting around the half-back combinations of Nick Evans, Dan Connolly and Pete Gretton. Andy Vaughton, Adam Fityan, Shane Roiser and Ugo Ekeowa were the main beneficiaries of this being put through time and again for try after try.
In the forwards, Gordon Denslow, Mark Edmonson, Chris Sherwood and the ever-bullish Pieter Davis made big inroads whenever they had the ball in hand and the ginger wrecking-ball that is Matt Morgan had the crowd on their feet numerous times with his big ‘bosch’.
Owing to word of mouth, forward-planning by those involved and some tense negotiations with wives/girlfriends/partners there was a good mix of returning tourists, new faces and even support from Physiotherapists Lottie and Naimh. There were also new additions to the Port Squad with Mick Martin and Ian Neill joining up with veteran supporter Chris Howell.
Several players made their debuts in the tournament and all of them contributed significantly to the rugby and the tour in general. Those debutants were Matt Morgan, Adam Fityan and Dan Connolly. With these new additions to the squad we had cover for every position and with the depth of our squad were able to compete with the best the tournament had to offer.
Friday night saw the usual suspects assemble in Chambers for pre-tournament hydration and team bonding, with some taking their hydration very seriously indeed.
The first match was a testing 19-7 victory against previous champions Guernsey who also boasted a large squad. Tries were scored by Shane Roiser and Dan Connolly, who also kicked some conversions. With the benefit of experience, good stretching and the presence of our new physios all hamstrings were intact at the end of the first game.
The second match was a resounding victory against Super Frelons Golden Oldies by 56-0. As the scores were coming thick and fast, the order of those who crossed the line was lost, but try scorers included Shay Reading, Jamie Jackson, Nick Evans, Dan Connolly, Pete Gretton and Ben Thorpe among others. Ben Challacombe and Ben Thorpe were a devastating 2nd row combination and Ed Sheppard supplied the appropriate front row, anchoring with Chris Howells once again making a cameo as the oldest player of the tournament.
The third match was also a fairly convincing win against Old Freemens 31-12, with more tries scored by Mark Edmonson, Andy Vaughton, Ugo Ekowa and Shane Roiser.
The score might have been far greater but for the freezing horizontal rain and its effect on handling and on morale.
At the end of the first day the Penguins stats looked good having played 3, won 3 with points for 106 and points against 31 giving a points difference of +105 and topping the group.
Saturday evening’s meal gave the squad a chance to unwind and reflect on the day as well as recharge the batteries and re-hydrate. Some continued their rehydration in the Royal Yacht Club with fortunately none of the squad following the example of Danny Cipriani a few weeks previously at the same venue.
Sunday morning found our tourists a little stiff, sore and tired from the previous day’s exertions but keen to get cracking at the rugby.
Overnight weather conditions had rendered our previous days changing tent/team base nothing more than a pile of canvas and bent poles and despite the best efforts of our military Penguins we were unable to salvage our home from home so took refuge in the stands instead.
The medical highlight of the second day was Luke Brunton stepping in to relocate an ankle fracture dislocation on the pitch after one of the Gloucester Constabulary players suffered a nasty injury.
The first game of Day 2 was against Super Frelons, a French side which we had previous ‘ boeuf’ with, and the game carried on in this slightly niggling vein however the Penguins were able to rise above this and once again score quite freely, winning 47-0 to set up a Semi-Final play-off against the RAF.
In a sadly error-strewn performance the Penguins struggled against the RAF who boasted former British Lion Allan Bateman in their squad. Despite having most of the possession the Penguins were unable to capitalise on their dominance and the match became very nip and tuck with the RAF making the most of their limited chances and the Penguins failing to put the match away as they would have liked.
Despite some unusually stern words from their Captain at half-time the errors continued and at full-time, owing to some confusion around the number of conversions scored by the Penguins, the referee was unable to categorically state who had won the match. The linesman was equally unable to confirm the final score and a very vociferous RAF squad (and one particularly worked-up individual) felt they had won the match having kicked all of their conversions and that the offer of an extra time ‘play off’ by the referee was tantamount to ‘cheating’ on the Penguins part.
The Penguins therefore had the good grace and sportsmanship to concede the match (nominally 26-28) and unfortunately with it the opportunity to defend their title or indeed play in any of the 4 finals on the wonderful Jersey Red’s 1st Team pitch.
Despite the rugby ending on a bit of a sour note the tourists all agreed that the Jersey Tour continues to be a highlight in the calendar and many have already booked the time off to attend the 2019 tournament on the weekend of the 4th-6th October.
I would encourage any and all Penguins to make time to play in or support the team next year.
Jamie Jackson (Capt.)
Adam Fittian, Andrew Vaughton, Ben Challacombe, Ben Thorpe, Chris Sherwood, Chris Howell, Dan Connolly, Edward Sheppard, Gordon Denslow, Jamie Jackson (c), Luke Brunton (Percy), Mark Edmondson, Matt Morgan, Nick Evans, Nnamdi Chinye, Oli Laird, Piotr Davis, Peter Gretton, Shane Roiser, Shay Reading, Tom Jackson, Ugo Ekeowa
Lottie Fulton (Physio), Niamh (Physio), Mick Martin (Port Squad), Ian Neill (Port Squad), Richard Breeze (Motivational Speaker)