FORTY years of entente cordiale/rugby friendship is a long time and perfectly sums up the sport's ethos - play hard, sing hard and drink hard.
Recognising its special friendship with Beauvais in France, the Barry Rugby Club took its biggest ever touring party to compete in their annual 'Tournoi.'
With the 53-coach party donning 1970s Welsh ‘Merve the Swerve’ kit in celebration, a liquid journey was enjoyed en route to Dover and, with renditions of a few Welsh classics cheering other ferry passengers, the barman commented that it was his most memorable crossing.
With a host of new and old faces, Barry meant business. Friday night drinks came first and the Beauvais bars/hosts did not disappoint either new or old tourists. Special thanks to the mayoress of Beauvais for holding a reception to celebrate the friendship and special mention to Chris Evans for losing the other 60-odd Welsh dressed tourists/hotel and falling asleep in a warm bus stop!
Saturday morning arrived with a new tournament format of two leagues of eight games. Barry particularly looked forward to playing new adversaries Cranbrook RFC. Alas, due to their injuries/administration, the game wasn't played!
Games consisted of intense 12-minute periods, and the ‘newbies’ soon realised it was a big challenge.
With Friday's memorable journey and socialising still in mind, Barry kicked off the 'Tournoi' against a Bretigny team who had visited Wales earlier in season and knew they had to start with a win against a well drilled unit. Playing a strong team, Barry did not disappoint and duly won 10-5. Barry were fortunate that yellow cards for 'Bubbs' and Gavin Elsworth meant little (fresh players came on). Bubbs always converses with refs and there was no communication breakdown on this occasion. Gavin’s tackle was hard but fair and not to be his last ‘sit down’ contribution.
Barry were able to field an equally strong team of fresh players for their second game against Laon, but, with the game in the bag, they conceded a last second equalising try. The ref 's interpretation of the 12 minutes and infringements puzzled supporters.
With the temperature warming up on and off the field, next up were Clermont and, following another hard fought game, Barry emerged with a 10-0 win. 'Chopper' made a dart down the right and, after being stuck in treacle, was pushed to the try line and, immediately, called for Noble as his replacement. Oxygen was available on the sidelines.
The last game before lunch was against Clamart and, again, Barry enjoyed the majority of ball and were 5-0 up when a succession of curious penalties were awarded against them. This resulted in a second last second equalising try being scored and the whistle being blown immediately. It should be noted that, for once in his rugby career, McTavish was trying to stop a fight, pulling Nic 'The Voice’ Lundy away as he sought to exchange a few words.
Lunch arrived and some lovely fatty food and cold beers were forced onto the players and supporters by cunning hosts who were to be opening opponents in the afternoon.
Most fell into the trap with open arms and a few even managed to read the insides of their eyebrows! Shocking. Did anyone even eat the cheese?
Fortunately, Barry won the toss against the hosts and played down the slight slope. For 12 minutes any friendships were forgotten and rugby was the order. However, the game was probably the slowest and loosest Barry played all 'Tournoi' due to the break, heat and refreshments. It wasn’t until Barry went behind that they bucked up their ideas and started playing Bombers' rugby. After equalising and knowing the win was crucial, Williams intercepted brilliantly and touched down for the winning try 10-5.
Up next were Scots friends Tillycoultry. With updates that Barry needed bonus points, the 'Jocks' were put to the sword and five tries brought the reward. Elsworth’s ‘sit down’ tackle on one unfortunate opponent will long live in the memory. Credit, where credit's due, fearing the arrival of a stretcher, the equally massive second row got up, dusted himself down and carried on. According to most observers, this was Gav’s best ever game and his forward and defensive play belied his age. On this subject, special mention to Julian Davies who donned the boots for a few minutes and showed you never lose the rugby brain; it just gets slower.
In their last game, Barry played Rosny and breeezed to a 15-0 win. Scott’s double/triple dummy had those on the sidelines going the wrong way, ducking through the gap created by his magic. 'Bubbs' was jubilant to cross the whitewash with a show and go. Unable to score that elusive fourth try for the bonus point, heads were down on the final whistle.
However, Barry were in for a pleasant surprise at the awards ceremony, picking up most try scorers (14), Knappers collecting a big brass cockerel in celebration of the friendship. The biggest cheer then went up when, down to the last two teams, Clamart were awarded second place and the celebrations started as Barry had won their third Tournoi; magnifique. The whole Barry party celebrated in style, with a 21-bun salute to the English.
Try of the 'Tournoi' was Brad Gee's perfectly executed lineout move and sprint to the line. Most ludicrous skill was Jimmy P’s wrap around his body and then throwing the ball forward. Tackle of the game - one of Gavin’s ‘sit downs.'
Many thanks to hosts Patrick Dorchy, Guy Quaranta, Yannick Desloriers, Catherine et Jean Pierre and others for their fantastic hospitality; tres magnifique.
And massive thanks to sponsors Sears Davies/Julian Davies, Watkins & Gunn Sols/Clive Thomas, Robertsons Sols/Andrew Humphreys, Barry RFC and Chris Wall; Paul Haley for attending the reception and organising the mayoress’ gift; Pat Jones for her grande 'buffet;' Frankie Greig for his first aid bag and skills; Knappers for his help in organising trip and 'Donkey' Delaney for his chairman of selectors role which he exercised perfectly.
Tour spokesman Andy Moffatt said: "What makes a tour? Playing, winning, singing and drinking? Yes, but most of all, it's the PEOPLE who you go with. I cannot think of a single person who I could not recount a funny comment/incident for.
"This tour will live in my/our memories for a very long time. We have introduced the new younger Vets to our future. Long live our friendship with Beauvais as I am sure everyone knows rugby keeps us young. Allez Beauvais et Barry Vets.
"Indeed, congratulations to all as I have tried to mention the most memorable incidents of many."
Tillycoultry Vets are holding a Golden Oldies Vets tournament on August 16 if anyone is interested in doing a reccie, while the Vets look forward to defending the trophy next year. Up the Bombers and Beauvais.