On Friday 17th May, 29 men set off to the south of France for weekend of beer and rugby. Little did they know how it would turn out. This was the tourists 4th visit to the vets tournament hosted by St. Savin RFC (near Lyon), having taken a break after visits in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Previous attempts have seen the boys finish in second place having made the most of the fair play points system.
Having checked into the luxurious Hotel Kyriad, the group headed into Bourgoin-Jallieu to sample the Friday night atmosphere. Reminders were issued of an early morning pickup on the Saturday for the tournament, however these were largely ignored. Fast forward to 8am on the Saturday morning, where by some form of miracle the 18 playing members of the tour, supported by a couple of water boys, boarded the coach to St. Savin for one of the quietest journeys ever witnessed.
The tournament was attended by 16 teams, including English teams DMP, York and Ruislip, along with Portadown of Northern Ireland. Expectations of success on the day were suitably low, given the quantities of Gaviscon and Paracetamol being consumed. Nevertheless, the day kicked of and Mowden won their first 2 games, scoring 5 tries in the process. Points are awarded in each game for scoring tries (1 per try up to a maximum of 4) and fair play (maximum of 2 at the referee's discretion). The 3rd game, played against the host team 'Les Potes Au Feu' went against our boys, thanks largely to a very French referee...
As the mornings games drew to a close, and the teams headed in for a 3 course meal washed down with complimentary wine, the boys reflected on the results so far. Only 5 tries had been scored, and 0 fair play points had been secured thanks largely to a couple of angry players within the squad, 2 wins from 3 had been satisfactory but not outstanding.
Roll on the afternoon and it was a very different story. Perhaps awoken by the delightful lunch, maybe the hangovers had finally worn off, or it was simply the desire to get the rugby out of the way. Whatever the cause, the Mowden boys proceeded to smash every team put before them, securing maximum points in each of the 4 afternoon games (scoring 23 tries in the process). At the culmination of the days games, there were whispers that maybe, just maybe, it was coming home.
As the teams were called out from last to first place, excitement grew before skipper Mark Bell was called up to collect the trophy for first place. They'd done it. European Cup Champions 2019.
The celebrations went on long in to the night, although it was clear the following morning that there would be no Alex Goode style session, as the group wandered aimlessly looking for a beer, led by boy scout Tony Cater. Overall the weekend was an absolute success, and our thanks are extended to the hosts for a fantastic weekend from start to finish.
Squad in full:
The Antiquarians are back in action on Saturday against old rivals Darlington RFC! The game at Blackwell Meadows will kick off at 3pm, and the clubhouse will be open for refreshments so head down and cheer on the European Champions!