Published: April 6th 2010April 6th 2010
Despite all our misgivings about the hotel it eventually turned out all right and we managed to find 25 boys and 5 dads pretty much where they should have been in the morning. Everyone was out of bed at the traditional 7:30 for a (fairly average) breakfast around 8. The big concern of the day was whether the laundry would get washed, dried and returned it time - recent history would show that we were likely to be seriously disappointed by the hotel but we were still mildly optimistic.
On the bus at 9 we headed first for Old Trafford to see the traditional home of Manchester United and see if we could learn a thing or two from them - after the Chelsea game I had my doubts but, again, mild optimism was prevalent. It was onkly a 15 minute drive and in a biting Manchester wind we lined up and got the tour underway.
Our tour guide, Stewart, had the boys completely confused with his collection of well tried and tested one-liners : the dads were busy with their pens and papers writing them down to use them at home - watch out when they get home!
It was a great tour and a truly amazing stadium and organisation that was enjoyed by all. From there we headed to the Trafford centre - shopping mall - to give the boys a bit of chill time and some lunch before we went to answer the outstanding questions about the laundry! Lunch was at Pizza Hut - all the pasta and pizza you can eat which was just what the boys needed before the afternoon game.
Back to the hotel around 1:30 we were extremely surprised when the laundry turned up pretty much on time - some of it was quite a bit smaller than when we sent it in - including Greg’s scrum cap. Jarrod’s boots managed to come back as well - why wouldn’t you chuck them in with the laundry!
From there we were off to the grounds expecting a 4:30 kick - off . We arrived just after 3 to find we were the only people there which was, as they say, mildly worrying. A few quick phone calls later and it transpired that the game was, in fact, scheduled for 6 pm and we were fashionably early. The reasons behind this confusion
are various and very murky - fair chance that Tim’s defence will be shot down in flames and will wear the kilt for the day - all will be revealed tomorrow. Once we had sorted that all out we sent the boys for a walk to town while we socialised with the visitors and eventually got things underway an hour later - better early than late I maintain.
We had a warm welcome from the club and soon had the boys changed and warming up in a fairly warm late afternoon - probably all of 12 degrees but with the odd hint of sun it was not too bad. The opposition soon arrived and there was a fair bit of sizing up going on before the game by both sides. Time marched on and right on 6, both teams ran out to commence the second battle of the four nations tour.
It would be fair to say that our boys were a little surprised by the physicality of the opposition in the first half. They really took it to the Exiles team and were certainly very much up for the game. Our boys struggled to get their hands
on the ball and some clever play from the Sandbach side saw them 2 tires up after 20 minutes - 10-nil. Finally some sense of balance started to return to the game and our lads settled down and started to play their style of rugby. It was still very close but a smart box kick from Sam Bullock put the ball down into the oppositon’s 22 where Sam Wild recovered it in I brilliant form and sprinted th last yards to the line to score under the posts. This was quickly converted by Sam Bullock and at half time the score was a respectable 10-7.
A few team changes in the second half saw fresh players onto the field and we were soon hot on attack once again. Numerous knock-ons and high tackles meant the game was very stop-start but in the 39th minute a stunning tackle from Jarrod saw them cough up the ball, Greg Newman capitalised on this and ran the ball hard up the middle before passing it out to Charlie and then Ryan who produced (almost) the play of the day with a chip over the top which he recovered and crossed the line with,
to bring the score to 12-10.
From here it was frantic attack and defence - Nathan was ruled to have knocked the ball on which cost us a certain try and Sandbach had 2 good attacking opportunities that our boys shut down with some stunning tackling. With 4 minutes to go the opposition were awarded a penalty in front of the posts that they turned into 3 points - 13-12 with 2 minutes to go. Hearts in mouths and all that!!
From the kick off, the ball was quickly recovered by Jarrod who then produced the play of the day - 6 tackles; never held; back on his feet 3 times; 40 metres, ball in hand- a storming run right through the Sandbach players to score to the left of the uprights with less than a minute to play. The crowd went wild - well at least half of them anyway! The conversion was unsuccessful but it didn’t matter as the final whistle blew : 17 - 13 to the Dubai Exiles - and what a game it was.
The boys played some brilliant rugby and in the end came out on top - guts, determination and team work
won through for them and they came away with another win. They still continue to impress us - it ain’t all pretty - but at the end of the day they are winning. We had a quick meal with the club - again, great hospitality - and a few drinks before heading back to the hotel. Three of the rooms had been flooded during the day - doesn’t get any better does it? So we moved the necessary boys around and packed them off to bed by 10:20.
Tomorrow it’s off to Swansea and another challenge - great fun, great rugby, great bunch of supporters and, for the boys, a great learning experience.