The local Penguins in Manly are a threatened species but the touring King Penguins keep thriving on overseas trips and are expanding in number and strength and even included a Pingvin in Per Sjobeck. The Lions tour and a return revenge fixture after our 2010 game with The Australian Parliament, “The Pollies”, provided the motivation for over 40 players and supporters to turn up in Sydney in time for the last test. Friend and Parliamentary liaison man Andy Turnbull did a super job in arranging the fixture to take place at the venerated North Sydney Oval where, after the main game, a match between Lions Legends and Wallaby Greats also took place. The Oval provided a spectacular setting with historical stands all around the ground, the O’Reilly Stand coming from the Sydney Cricket Ground when it was rebuilt, named of course after legendary Aussie test cricketer Bill O’Reilly and also The Bob Stand, named after Bob’s your Uncle!
In any event it was a magnificent setting for our match and it was decided that the older players would play for the first 10 minutes, then the boys would play rugby. Due to some misunderstanding amongst the Pollies, MPs often being confused by rules, especially financial ones I might add, the Pollies had their first team on and the bewildered older Penguins were down 7 points within about 60 seconds. So it was game on and your correspondent noticed a ball on the ground at one of those ruck/maul thingies and picked it up and gave it to our energetic scrum half Alec Calcraft who passed it on where it landed in the hands of Tony Penn, our talented and inspiring captain who scored after knocking a couple of blokes over, 7 all and away we went. There was much exciting running play and though the scoring might have been higher it did not detract from the entertainment, both sides contributing to what was an excellent game.
Two memorable highlights were firstly watching our scrum half, under much pressure from the opposition, shape up for a sensible clearing kick 3-4 yards from our line in crowded conditions but then decide in good Penguin tradition that it was better to beat about 3 men and run up field where we were halted inside the opponent’s half, splendid stuff.
Then The Pollies, in what was to be the last move of the match looked to be scoring a consolation try in the corner, their gigantic second row moving at a frightening speed along the touchline when along came, just turned 16 years of age, our number 10, Adam Hastings from out of nowhere to blast the man and flag 5 yards in to touch. Adam jumping to his feet with a punch to the heavens – great stuff and sign for the referee to blow his whistle!
It was a very enjoyable game with Penguins coming out on top, 26 – 12. We then adjourned to the bar with our very sociable opposition and had a grand old time, our 12000 fans considerately remaining behind to watch the Lions beat the Wallabies in an exciting match, no doubt made better by the standard already set. The try scorers were Tony Penn, Andy Douglas, Adam Hastings, he of excellent pedigree, and Paul Raeburn, conversions from David Harris, Adam Hastings and Campbell Aitken who was up for a win after the 2010 fixture and showed up exceptionally well in the play.
Doug Signorini, dinner poster boy got a poke in the eye that was treated on the sidelines and with cries of “I can see, I can see” immediately dashed back to the fray.
Friday night saw us enjoy a private dinner at the Sydney Rugby Club, kindly arranged by Allan Dodd, Bill Calcraft happily showing us his picture on the wall with the Australian squad he played with.
The Australian hospitality was immense everywhere and massive good spirits and humour prevailed.
On the train to the ground for the test Wallaby supporters sang “God Save your Glorious Queen” which much impressed me though they rather spoiled it two seconds later singing “Camilla Parker Bowles is your next Queen”.
Our thanks to Allan Dodd and The Sydney Rugby club, Matt Polin of Polin wines for the tasting that destroyed me at our dinner, Keith Wallace for the Mars bar eating contest, David Harris for his excellent organising, Browny who had Horse and Jingles tongue tied at the dinner, Doug Signorini for permission to have his photo on the dinner ticket, to Andy Turnbull a friend to us all.
But mainly thanks to all who showed up and played a part it was a great team effort.
Best wishes to Max Dodd for playing scrum half and ignoring our advice for his upset stomach, I suggested a lot of vodka might settle it his father sympathetically saying to tough it out, but the surgeon at the hospital thought removing his appendix a better idea, we wish him a swift recovery.