Sports Tour to Italy
17-21 October 2015
Despite the best effort of the Chitts Hill level crossing, we left Holmwood on time and with great excitement. The journey to the airport was remarkable uneventful and resulted in us arriving two hours before our departure time. With strict instructions not to overspend on day one, the children departed in groups mainly to sample the International cuisine of Gatwick North Terminal. When our gate number was finally shown we made our way with a spring in our step to gate 648 only to find that we were on our way to Malaga! Mr.Jeffries hightailed it back to the departure lounge to re read the information and, much to the delight of our fellow passengers, we arrived in a mass of slightly out of breath sky blue hoodies at the correct check in with time to spare.
A smooth flight was only interrupted by the Captain announcing Beth I’s 13th birthday (accompanied by the traditional anthem) and before we knew it we were being greeted by Debbie our tour guide at arrivals.
The hotel was functional,but not grand, and unfortunately full of European school groups who did not share quite the same empathy and manners for fellow guests. Dinner was a self service buffet, much to the excitement of most of the boys - and the male staff! After dinner it was straight to bed for the travel weary for a good night’s rest.
Sightseeing. Waking up to heavy drizzle was a little disappointing but our 1st stop of the day at the beautiful walled town of Lazise, right on the edge of Lake Garda was stunning in spite of the weather. Ice creams and souvenirs were purchased including “designer” baseball caps modelled by most of the boys and then we were off to Verona.
Firstly we visited Juliet’s balcony and had the exciting opportunity to rub the right breast of Juliet’s bronze statue which is supposed to ensure a happy love life. Strangely this activity appealed more to the boys than the girls - Christian T is going to be a very happy man in the future!
After this we ambled through the historic side streets to the Arena de Verona, the awesome ampitheatre famous for hosting plays, operas and this year….. One Direction. Obviously the children were keen to experience the acoustics from various points of the arena and I’m sure the rest of Verona were equally impressed with our vocal skills. We decided that this was the perfect spot for our picnic lunch before we explored the fine shops and yet more icecream.
With so much culture in one day we felt the need to let off a bit of steam on returning to the hotel and made use of their mini astroturf basketball court. What we lacked in skill we made up for with enthusiasm and with the scores between team White and team Goldring level at the end we had to go to a penalty shoot out. Team Goldring buckled under the pressure and a very proud Mr.White took the imaginary trophy.
After dinner we challenged the children to a General Knowledge quiz - much to their relief as we had told them it was a test on everything they had learned that day! Their answers demonstrated a reassuring amount of correct answers although the hyper competitive team of White and Jeffries did technically win by one point. It was a short lived victory as due to bonus points being awarded for excellent behaviour at supper, Messrs Jarvis, Bendon, Lyster and Wand took 1st prize.
Sunshine at last! The morning was spent exploring the stunning town of Peschiera including the weekly market and historic streets. Lunch was taken at the hotel and then it was finally match time. The girls left first with a long journey towards the north of the lake. On arrival at a slightly run down pitch and clubhouse I was told that we were to play Italy’s current national under 14 side!I decided not to share this information with the girls and they continued to warm up happily oblivious to the muscle bound, Roman goddesses that were about to take to the pitch.
After the ball hit the backboard at a thundering pace within the first two minutes the girls realised this was no Wednesday afternoon jaunt. Instead of cowering in fear, they stepped up and gave as good as they got. Emma d’A was amazing in goal, making numerous saves at various heights. Beth I battled in midfield with their strongest player, elbows out and unafraid of the challenges (the bloody knee and bruised thigh were evidence of her resilience). Every girl worked their socks off and Olivia R made some storming runs up the wing from defence - surprising herself at how far north she had travelled!
Rosie B managed to slot in two goals for us as well as nearly scoring one off her thumb but unfortunately our opponents were up to 8 goals by the end. Undeterred by the loss we tucked into their local parmeggano and salami before returning to the hotel battered, bruised and bleeding but still able to sing Justin Bieber!
West Verona RFC
A short journey from the hotel lead us to the first fixture, a local club, West Verona RFC. Due to the size of the club, small and in a local park, two matches were set ( 8 a-side). Holmwood under 12’s vs West Verona under 12’s & Holmwood under 13’s vs West Verona under 13/14’s.
Holmwood began this match with apprehension and the luxurious days of sightseeing still in their legs, this stalemate and reactive rather than proactive defence allowed the home side to appear strong in the first few stages. This standoffish approach was ended after several probing runs and Holmwood quickly became the dominant team. Despite the Italians dominating in size, the tenacity of holmwood allowed good quick ball to be presented to various players who ran through and scored some good individual tries.
Match stats -
Holmwood try (Ben N) - unconverted 5 - 0
West Verona try - converted 5 - 7
Holmwood try (Cristian T) - converted by Christian T 12 - 7
Holmwood try (Ben N) - Converted CT 19 - 7
West Verona try - converted 19 - 14
Holmwood try (Ben N) - Converted by Robin W 26 - 14
Holmwood try (Sam B) - converted by Sam B 33 - 14
Final score Holmwood win 33-14
Holmwood faced a David vs Goliath situation against West Verona RFC. With several of the opposition only a few inches off six foot. Again though, inspired by their younger teammates and the ever competitive assistant coach Mr Jeffries they took to the field with determination. Despite Holmwood throwing themselves at the opposition it appeared not much could be done. Holmwood quickly went 19 - 0 down.
A regroup and different plan of attack needed, Holmwood rallied with under 12’s and injured players (Ollie A & Ethan S) helping to boost moral. Holmwood began to claw their way back into the match. Brave defence and smarter rugby allowed Holmwood to come together and devise strategies to beat a much bigger team.
Match Stats -
West Verona Try - unconverted 0 - 5
West Verona Try - unconverted 0 - 10
West Verona Try - converted 0 - 17
Holmwood Try (Alisdair M) - Converted by Alisdair M 7 - 17
Holmwood Try (Alisdair M) - Converted by Alisdair M 14 - 17
West Verona Try - Converted 14 - 24
Holmwood Try (Alisdair M) - Converted by Alisdair M 21 - 24
Holmwood Try (Alisdair M) - Converted by Alisdair M 28 - 24
Holmwood Try (Christian T) - Converted by Alisdair M 35 - 24
Final score Holmwood win 35 - 24
An early start this morning to get to San Siro Stadium in Milan unfortunately turned into the bus journey from hell. A serious crash ahead of us on the motorway left us stranded for two hours on the motorway. With no sign of anything improving we made an executive decision to abandon the excursion and turned back at the earliest opportunity. We headed for lunch at a lakeside beach and spent a glorious hour in the sunshine, perfecting stone skimming skills and admiring the beautiful yachts in the marina before heading back to the hotel for pre match preparation. basketball for the boys and hair plaiting/ loud singing for the girls (their choice, not mine!)
The girls travelled north to the town of Riva at the very top of the lake, a breathtaking journey of blue sky, blue water and mountains disappearing into the lake. Riva’s pitch was quite small and this worked to our advantage as the girls were still a little battle weary. During our warm up I had to stop the girls and gather them around just to take in the scenery - I don’t think they will ever play in such a beautiful setting again with the sun going down behind the mountains and the lake reaching out below us. We started slowly and Riva were quick to score but as the time passed we became stronger and stronger. Emma d’A scored twice in the first half as did Beth I (including a flick over the goalie!) and at halftime we were 4-3 up despite their interesting team selection which at times had up to four boys on the pitch. Sophie H, in her debut as goalie, was superb and made countless saves and in the second half every player came alive. Olivia R and Anna VS dominated the defence with the help of Oyin A and Harriet F, Holly H, Phoebe R and Rosie B took turns in charging up the wings. Emma d’A scored again in the second half as did Beth I and Rosie B. The final score of 7-4 was thoroughly well deserved and the girls came off the pitch with bloody knees, sweaty faces and beaming smiles. Seeing the weaker players raise their game and the stronger players using each other to create space and maximise opportunities was definitely the highlight of the tour for me.
The girls and I then travelled to Valpolicella to catch the end of the boys’ game and join the post match festivities and more pasta.
Holmwood vs Valpolicella RFC
Holmwood’s next stop was that of a prestigious rugby (and wine) area of italy Valpolicella. The senior team plays in the equivalent to the English RFU championship league. (one below the premiership). Having been told all about this by the Tour rep on the journey up there, Holmwood were visibly nervous. Upon arrival at the ground, which sports a very large set of stands on one side Holmwood set to work. A calm and collected warm up began and a good buzz of confidence began to grow. This match would be played in the following - 12.5 minutes vs Valpolicella under 12 B’s, 12.5 minutes vs under 12 A’s and 25 minutes vs under 14 A’s
Holmwood started with such speed that 3 tries were scored in the first 5 minutes, strategic subs rested a few Holmwood legs for the bigger contest to come. So with 11 players Holmwood carried on into the second 12 minutes of the first half. Consistent pressure in the forward pack allowed quick turn over ball to be capitalized on and the first half ended 42 - 0.
The second half saw the Valpolicella under 14’s take to the field. The floodlights came on and the crowd amassing on the stands was infiltrated by, and dominated by verses of Swing Low as the Holmwood Girls made themselves heard. This boosted a very dominant Holmwood team into playing some incredible rugby.
Brilliant defence from everywhere and everyone forced Valpolicella to go wide round Holmwood with their older and faster players. Holmwood quickly learnt from this and rushed up to put early pressure on the ball carrier shutting off any wide options. This coupled with sevens style attacking play led to some incredible tries from all over the pitch. The atmosphere created by both the players and the supporting girls was incredible, I’m sure everyone enjoyed it and it will linger in all of our minds as a fantastic evening of rugby, it certainly will for Mr Jeffries who we may of even converted to egg chasing and not round ball!.
All who played should be very proud.
Match stats -
Holmwood try (Christian T) - Converted by Alisdair Marlow 7 - 0
Holmwood try (William W) - Converted by Alisdair Marlow 14 - 0
Holmwood try (Zeke L) - Converted by Alisdair Marlow 21 - 0
Holmwood try (Dougie C) - Converted by Alisdair Marlow 28 - 0
Holmwood try (Ben N) - Converted by Alisdair Marlow 35 - 0
Holmwood try - Converted by Alisdair Marlow 42 - 0
Holmwood Try (Alisdair M) - Converted by Alisdair M 49 - 0
Valpolicella Try - Unconverted 49 - 5
Holmwood Try (Alisdair M) - Converted by Alisdair M 56 - 5
Valpolicella Try - Converted 56 - 12
Holmwood Try (Christian T) - Converted by Alisdair M 62 - 12
A welcome lie in and leisurely breakfast before the drama of packing. Oyin’s suitcase seemed to have shrunk while we were away but with my weight on top and OLivia and Beth struggling with the zip we finally succeeded. I had visions of a mid flight explosion and the contents arriving separately around the carousel.
After the requisite tour prizegiving we headed to the basketball court and enjoyed a final tournament with panoramic views across to the distant mountains. Who knew that a 15 x 30m piece of Astroturf could entertain 26 children for so long in a productive,safe and comfortable way!!
All aboard the bus and onto a very smart shopping mall nearby for some final present buying and the apparently compulsive Mc Donalds.
Verona airport is small and functional so luckily the boys found some welcome distraction in the form of another rugby tour group from Mill Hill. The only difference was that these guys were about 50 in number, five or six years older, kitted out the very latest sponsorship logoed uniform and rippling with muscles. Fortunately they were very kind and enjoyed the hero worshipping and posing for selfies with the boys. It turned out that they were on the same flight as us so there wasn’t much room for any other humble travellers and the cabin crew’s welcoming smiles looked very fixed! Another smooth flight and easy transfer meant we arrived back at school even before our expected time - we can manage it from Italy but not from Ipswich!
This tour has been an interesting cultural education for the Holmwood pupils. They have discovered that Italian youths are rude to the point of obnoxious, have no sense of how to behave in public places and have a volume level that defies science. Holmwood have again travelled to another part of Europe and returned with heads held high. They have impressed the Italians with their physical prowess but even more so with their manners. Our tour guide’s final words to the children were, “ Why can’t all groups be like you?”.
A special note must be made of the two captains Alasdair M and Beth I who not only led by example on the pitches but were great ambassadors in various multilingual situations when really we didn’t have a clue what was going on!
Director of Sport