Caldicott Rugby Tour to UAE – October 2013
This was a very enjoyable and hugely successful ten day period spent in the United Arab Emirates for the Senior Caldicott Rugby Tour. The tour on the whole offered a good balance between Rugby and leisure activities, and the boys really enjoyed the mix of activities that the tour offered. It must be said that the boys were very well behaved throughout, and that the staff received some very nice comments from many of the people that the tour came into contact with. This was a pleasing factor.
The tour was split into two distinctive parts, with the party spending six days in Dubai before travelling across to Abu Dhabi for the remaining time of the tour.
Off the pitch the Wild Wadi Water Park was fantastic fun, and the many water rides including the impressive ‘Jumeirah sceira’ were great fun. An excursion to the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifia, was also a great experience even if some of the boys were not so keen on the view! Culturally the boys also visited the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, which was an impressive sight, along with having a traditional Muslim breakfast. This also gave the opportunity for many of the boys to ask questions about the culture and certainly proved to offer some real understanding about the Emirati culture. The Desert Safari was also a real treat, even though one of the jeeps managed to get literally beached in a sand dune! On the whole some great fun was had during all of the activities.
On the pitch the rugby was well-matched, and the two XV-a-side fixtures that we had were extremely competitive. It is worth considering that we took ten 5th formers as well as fourteen 6th formers, and we had to ensure that all boys played largely an equal amount of rugby across the two games. As a result we had to mix and match different line ups and the boys coped with this well, even though it undoubtedly disrupted the team flow. The matches were also a big test for the 5th form boys who certainly had to step up in terms of physicality and game awareness. However, this will have proved to have been a great experience for them and I hope to see them develop further as a result.
Match 1 v Dubai Hurricanes: Lost 27-10 (Tries: Green, Ariyo)
Dubai Hurricanes are one of the major rugby clubs across the UAE, and have huge numbers in their junior section. The majority of their players are English, SA, NZ or Australian. It was a great experience to play against them, particularly as their home ground is where the IRB Dubai Sevens take place! The pitch was in great condition, full in width and played under floodlights; it was a great experience to play there.
In all honesty we never looked like winning the fixture. The Hurricanes had some big, strong and fast ball carriers and we fell off too many tackles. The Hurricanes No.8 was outstanding in his ability to break the tackle and offload, and their right hand winger had fantastic pace. However, that being said, we did work hard to keep in the contest and it was pleasing to see Green, who was excellent throughout, and Ariyo cross the white wash for two very good team tries. This was a good experience for the boys and one that I am certain they will learn a lot from. Cassidy was particularly impressive, along with Wong and Jordon who were named ‘men of the match’ by the opposition. I was very disappointed, however, that we lost the post-match boat race!
Match 2 v Dubai College: Won 29-22 (Tries: Marshall, Jordon, Sangha, Green)
Dubai College are the number one school side in the UAE for Rugby, and have a rich tradition and heritage, particularly with the seven-a-side version of the game. It was, therefore, always going to be a tough fixture for the boys, and this made it even more pleasing that we were on the right side of the result.
We started the game very very badly, and it was as if many of the boys were still relaxing at the beach! However, once we found our feet in the contest it became evident that our forwards had the upper hand over their counterparts from DC. Ravagnan had his best game in a Caldicott shirt, and it was pleasing to see him dragging the Sangha brothers around the pitch, along with Eyre, who also had one of his best performances - the 5th form forwards really did stick their hands up in this game too - it was through this that we got ourselves a foothold in the game, with Jordon also scoring a fantastic solo effort from broken field. However, the moment of the game undoubtedly came from George Green. With Caldicott leading 24-22, and last play called, the forwards set up great field position with the back line moving the ball across the width, with Green finishing fantastically well under pressure from the cover defence, diving in the far corner which was occupied by the Caldicott reserves. Celebrations ensued as the final whistle was blown. This was a great moment for the tour, and it was an important moment in uniting the group as a whole.
Abu Dhabi Harlequins Junior Sevens Rugby Festival (Two days)
We entered two sides into the festival, with both teams containing a real mix of 5th and 6th form boys. Day one saw both teams playing three matches within their group, with day two being the knockout competition - all played in over 38 degrees of heat!!
Caldicott 1 had a great first day, winning all three of their matches very comfortably, scoring over 120 points in the process, conceding none, and topping their group. Caldicott 2 also had a good day, winning one, losing one and drawing their last pool game. This last game was a real cracker, with Caldicott getting back into the game to finish 19-19; as a result they came second in their group, and both Caldicott teams were in the main competition for day two.
The start of day two saw Caldicott 1 beat Bahrain by 4 tries to 1 in the quarter final. Caldicott 2 lost by 5 tries to 1 to Abu Dhabi Harlequins, but this was a great performance, and now meant that they went into the semi-final of the Plate competition.
Caldicott 1 faced Dubai Hurricanes in the semi-final and disappointingly lost by 5 tries to 2. The Hurricanes were a strong outfit, who we had already played at xv’s, but we were certainly capable of beating them – a slow and nervous start gave them too much of a lead, but we came back strongly and played some fine sevens to push them hard; we must learn some lessons from this game and get better at the breakdown in sevens and not fall off tackles. This being said, the Hurricanes did go on to win the overall competition, beating the Harlequins in the final by 7 tries to 1, so perhaps on reflection not a bad result overall!
Caldicott 2 faced Exiles 2 in the semi-final of the plate and showed great determination to win the match 17-5. This meant we needed to beat Bahrain in order to win the plate. Unfortunately we ran out of steam following two very taxing days and lost the final. The team did exceptionally well to win their way through to the final and compete the way that they did. They played to their strengths throughout but unfortunately lacked the speed which proved the difference in the final. The commitment shown throughout was excellent and I am sure that this will stand you in good stead for the sevens season next term. Ward, Morley and Ariyo were effective along with good leadership shown by Ravangan, Sangha and Eyre.
In summary, I feel that the tour was an overwhelming success, and the UAE really is a fantastic place to tour.
It was never just about winning rugby matches, and I really hope that all of the boys have enriched their rugby experience and have a new found love for touring. It would also be great to see the 5th form boys really grow and develop as players for the remaining weeks of the rugby season, prior to them moving into the 6th form next year. Similarly, I hope that the 6th form boys also come back as better rugby players for their remaining rugby season here at Caldicott.
However, perhaps more importantly than this, I hope that the boys have developed and improved their independence and character, and have also enhanced and developed new friendships.
I would like to add a big thank you for all the support of all of the staff that helped to make the tour a success. Not just the staff that came out to the UAE, but also the staff that helped with the many tour arrangements and fundraising events that took place this end; without their help and support the tour would not have been able to go ahead. It was also great to have the support of all of the parents in organising the tour, and it was great to see that so many of the parents travelled out to watch the boys play in the UAE.
A great experience, roll on the next one!
On the last evening of tour we had a team meal and some prize giving. Mr Hurst, Mr Zengerink and myself put together a shortlist of players for each of the categories below. It was great that all of the boys got a mention in our tour review and that most of the boys found themselves nominated for two or three different categories. However, below are the overall winners:
Best Back On Tour – George Green
Best Forward On Tour – Luka Cassidy
Most Improved Player on Tour – William Morley
Most Effort On Tour – Charlie Cooke
Best Tourist – Joseph Fennell
Top 7s Players – Rory Marshall & Thomas Ward
7s Fair play Award – Aman Sangha (As presented by Gavin Hastings)
Man of the Match Awards v Hurricanes: JJ Wong & Benjamin Jordon
Man of the Match Awards v Dubai College: Romeo Ravangnan & Ahmad Shah
MJH October 2013