The junior tour party set off from the A&C clubhouse in the early afternoon but, due to traffic jams on the M25, we missed our tunnel connection. Further roadworks throughout France and Belgium caused more delays and we eventually rolled up our hotel at 11pm.
Fortunately, the hotel was very understanding and still laid on some fantastic Dutch sandwiches and refreshing lager for all. All retired to bed looking forward to a full day ahead.
On Saturday, after a hurried breakfast and some busy herding of players we departed for the Oosterbeek War Cemetery and still made it before the senior tour party. We all gathered resplendent in our tour jackets to pay our respects at the graveside of Jack Grayburn VC, where a wreath was laid and to listen to a very moving speech by Chris Smith.
After this we moved on to the Airborne Museum "Hartenstein" and the boys spent a rather thoughtful hour there.
We then left to meet our hosts at Arnhem Rugby Club where we were advised a light lunch would be waiting for all the players. Unfortunately, the senior coach party had arrived some 15 minutes before us and scoffed the lot. In hindsight this probably was not a bad thing as Arnhem were anxious to get on with the games, as there were two fixtures before we could partake of their catering later in the day.
We had a squad of 20, with seven of the A team who had won the league, with the rest being B team. The host team sadly were only able to raise only 13 players, of which one was a rather attractive young lady. To their credit many of our players generously offered to play for the opposition. We equipped them with our two largest forwards and the game commenced. After a short while it was apparent that we were going to be too good for them so we substituted any of our boys who ran more than 10 metres with the ball and rotated other members of the squad onto the opposition side throughout the first half, which was played in very good spirits.
At half-time we allowed the “Pigs” as Arnhem are nicknamed, to swap eight of our players onto their team and the second half was very evenly balanced with some excellent rugby. We enjoyed good-natured swapping of team members and substitutes throughout. There was some fine passing and very solid tackling, although our mauling seemed to be less effective than usual and to go on for much longer than it normally did in the season, especially when their longhaired winger was caught in possession.
After the game, the boys relaxed in the sunshine watching the senior team creak to a win against the hosts. After changing, we enjoyed wonderful hospitality from Arnhem Rugby Club during the early evening.
We departed with the boys to our hotel for the Court Hearings which commenced promptly at 8pm. The crimes before the Judge ranged from consorting with the opposition, being sick at training, passing to invisible players, and many more. The punishments were also varied, but as the session was held “in camera”, I am not at liberty to disclose specifics save to say that large quantities of pickled eggs and dog food disappeared from the hotel stock whilst the adults enjoyed suicide tequilas.
The remainder of the evening was spent enjoying the varied, and I must say absolutely delicious Dutch cuisine, washed down with fine lagers from their cellars.
Somehow on Sunday morning we managed to rouse all the boys from their beds and depart on time, having enjoyed a wonderful weekend.
Special thanks to everybody involved in the organisation as the boys were extremely impressed with their tour jackets.
Report By George Newton