20/09/23 | Under 16's
Reminiscent of legendary Norse invaders from ancient times, under their fearsome (yet cuddly) chief Keith “Tucker” Broadbent, all wearing horned Viking helmets, the Lymm RUFC U16s mustered after school at Pier Head Liverpool on Friday September 15th 2023. The mission: To sail across the Irish Sea on the mighty Steam Packet ship Manannan, to engage the Manx Ramsey and Vagabonds clubs in some friendly and sociable games of rugby.
During the rather choppy crossing, refreshments on board were enthusiastically enjoyed by all. The boys, conscious that they were representing the club, behaved very well, drawing many compliments and friendly enquiries from curious passengers and crew, and we were also delighted to encounter Howie Scarffe, our former Club Chairman and dedicated M&J coach, who posed for a photo on the aft viewing deck, and wished us well for the tour. He joined us again on Sunday to cheer on the plucky Lymm team.
Our transport for the tour was an immaculate custard yellow vintage double decker bus, driven by a certain Kevin Broadbent! Our own chief Tucker’s big bother! Kevin and Keith acted as local tour guides as we travelled around the scenic Isle of Man, driving on many of the famous stretches of the TT motorcycle race, and through pretty villages and stunning coastal roads.
Our accommodation for the tour was the very comfortable Palace Hotel Spa and Casino on the Douglas sea front. We were excited that we shared the hotel with an American classic car group who were over for the weekend showing off their stunning machines and raising money for worthy causes. Our own Aiden Mcilroy’s parents Ged & Kate had their stunning red 1979 Chevrolet Corvette on display, and we saluted them enthusiastically from the bus when we passed their event on the prom.
A rather soggy Douglas greeted us on the Saturday morning. Completely sated with full Manx breakfasts, Kevin expertly took us north to the pretty seaside town of Ramsey. The strengthening gusty onshore winds whipped the white horses and rain horizontally across the beach-side pitches, flags snapping to greet us as the bus pulled into the Ramsey club car park. The local team were already warming up, so our coaches didn’t hang about to warm up and kick-off, so Lymm Captain Jamie Cope led his team promptly out into the grim weather, and onto the playing field.
The Ramsey side showed real grit, skill and determination, demonstrating some real class and quality rugby playing, but they couldn’t stop the fit and well trained boys from Lymm who ended up winning 60 – 10. Magnanimous in defeat the Ramsey captain sportingly thanked us for coming, and for giving them a really good game. Club ties were exchanged, with promises of future re-matches. The constant supply of teas and coffees was greatly appreciated, and we all enjoyed the Ramsey club’s friendly hospitality.
After the game Kevin whisked us off to the stunning western side of the island to explore and have lunch in the picture postcard town of Peel. With its menacing medieval castle overlooking the pretty fishing harbour and curving fine sand beach front, it really was a fabulous place to visit with the boys.
Back at the hotel the boys went for a refreshing swim in the hotel Spa before the traditional and good natured “Tour Court“ ceremony took place. The eminent Judge Tucker presiding, Prosecutor Mark Harrison, Defence Rob Worsfold and Bailiff Ian Cope called up several defendants to plead guilty or not guilty to such heinous crimes as turning 16 on tour, not wearing ones Viking helmet as required, and missing training sessions without a good excuse. Appropriate penances of multiple push ups and sit ups, and even being required to wear a beautiful pink sweet 16 tiara and sash for the rest of the tour, were all accepted in good grace to riotous applause and cheers that surely pleased Odin, Thor and the gang in Valhalla.
An identically wet Sunday morning saw us boarding the big yellow bus once again, but for a much shorter journey to the very smart Vagabonds Rugby Clubhouse 10 minutes out from Douglas. Much more sheltered inland, the gentle drizzle faded almost completely, and we felt the Isle of Man was holding its breath in anticipation, waiting to see how the boys in green, white and black from across the sea might fend against the much larger club.
The Vagabond boys were clearly up for a good game, impressively well drilled, warming up with energy and discipline. Lymm boys in still wet kit, and missing their own beds, with perhaps not as much sleep as they are used to, didn’t appear quite so pumped.
Nevertheless appearances can be deceptive. The first try for Lymm came a few minutes into the first quarter. The Vagabond boys were hungry for points, determined to show these visitors their very best performance, so they really came alive with astonishing intensity and drive, having tested the water to see if they were going to get a proper game or not from the visitors.
A proper game is exactly what they got from Lymm U16s. Our boys were fearlessly rock solid in defence, denying the big Manx lads from breaking through time after time. Adept at turning the ball over Lymm would slickly move the ball down the line with speed and accuracy at pace. The forwards also winning scrums and line outs with a well-practiced order, their classic formations and solid team play was unstoppable, and the tries kept coming, including a perfectly judged pass from the fly half into the flight path of our airborne right winger, who intercepted it mid-air, and grounded it in style just over the line inside the corner flag! Leaving Lymm 17 0 up at half time.
Undeterred, unbowed and really fired up now, the Vagas thundered back for the 3rd quarter. Strong and accurate kicking from both sides moved the gameplay to and fro, waiting for the break or an unlucky fumble. The home team finally made two solid tries in quick succession. Appearing to have figured out how to deal with the cheeky visitors. With well-matched play both teams put more points on the board, but Lymm still managed to boost their lead to 22-17 at the end of the 3rd quarter.
Still fired up and determined to show the visitors how they do it, the fourth quarter started with an impressive display of power and pace from the Vagabonds. Could the tired and battered Lymm boys withstand this pressure?
Well, yes they could. The long kicking game can be risky, and with astonishing reflexes and skill Lymm fullback expertly caught and hoofed the ball from near his try line across to the left side to pop up beautifully into the well-judged high speed interception of our left wing, for an uncatchable thundering sprint to score between the posts. Easily converted, Lymm pulled further ahead, and even managed a sixth try before the final whistle winning 34-17.
Showing great sportsmanship the Vagabonds made the traditional tunnel for their worthy opponents with 3 cheers, both teams shook hands following a fantastic game of intense, faced-paced and skilful rugby from both sides.
Captains Speeches, ties and gifts exchanged, happy birthday songs raising the roof, the staff and volunteers really made all the Lymm players and parents very welcome at the fantastic Vagabonds club house, with great food and refreshments in plentiful supply, their friendly hospitality was greatly appreciated.
The final trip in the beautiful yellow behemoth took us all back on time to Douglas ferry port. Turning a few heads in our Viking helmets, we were efficiently ushered back onto the mighty Manannan, and in swift comfort and style we cruised smoothly back across the Irish Sea to Liverpool.
With sincere thanks to our hosts, the referees, the linesmen, our driver Kevin, the Lymm U16 coaches and especially Keith Broadbent for organising and managing this thoroughly enjoyable weekend of rugby and fun in the beautiful Isle of Man!
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