Tours are a core part of rugby, perhaps even more so at school level than any other, where every school takes great pride in the life experience
With that in mind it was with great excitement that we took off for Shiplake College to watch as they hosted Australian school Ignatius Park, who had brought enough players for both the first and second XVs to play.
Unfortunately for Shiplake, that was probably not the news that they wanted to hear, such is the depth of their current injury crisis. Sixteen players were unavailable for selection for this fixture due to injury, with another being added to the list early in the second half.
That had a dramatic effect for the hosts, particularly as most of those injuries came in the backline, meaning a number of players were forced to play vastly out of position and indeed out of their age-band.
In the first half that told rather as a bit of unfamiliarity and a few errors, allied to some excellent play from Ignatius, in particular from their outside centre, saw the Australian visitors go into the break 33-0 ahead.
Worrying times for the hosts indeed, and with a relatively inexperienced side they could have been forgiven for collapsing.
However Shiplake came out for the second half seemingly rejuvenated, with captain Charlie Sichel, standing at inside centre, at the heart of things, driving his side on in the tackle, at the breakdown, and with his direct running.
Ignatius did extended their lead though, scoring early on to go 40-0 up, but that was to be their last score of the game as Shiplake went on to largely dominate the rest of the half, with fifth from fly half Harry Ibbitson an ever growing presence, flying in the face of his tender age to begin to control the elder players around him.
Scrum half William Sayers was another who was getting himself stuck into the game well and was awarded a try for his efforts after some sharp work around the breakdown to bring the Shiplake onto the scoreboard, at 40-7 behind.
Of course though, that stat, 40-7, is the most relevant, and for their first half display Ignatius were thoroughly deserving of it. Whether it was through the power, pace, and footwork of their centre, or the powerful and patient work from their forwards whenever they got a sniff of the line, Ignatius were clinical whenever the try line was in sight. Their work at the breakdown was ferocious too – clearly seeing Hooper and Pocock picked in the national side together has been a source of inspiration and created a new wave of breakdown snafflers.
Ultimately though, a tour game is about bonds made and stories shared through the common bond of rugby, despite the many thousands of miles between the sides, and Shiplake’s photos on Twitter later of the two teams enjoying dinner and a few tales together were the real story of the day,
It was, in all, a great rugby occasion.
Full Time: Shiplake College 7-40 Ignatius Park
Head to our Gallery to see some images from the game, and a link to more!