Result: German Development XV 35 - Penguin International RFC 45
Article by Tim Stevens
The Penguins travelled to Heidelberg, the spiritual home of German rugby, to play a German National Development XV on Saturday 6th June 2015 for the club’s first 15-a-side overseas tour since the trip to Trelleborg, Sweden, in 2012 to help the Pingvins Club celebrate their 50th Anniversary.
Following the German women’s rugby championship final, kick off time was at 6pm on the Saturday evening, and with the weather conditions being excellent, the stage was set for a fast, open, attacking game of rugby – in true Penguins tradition. The challenge ahead for the squad was large, as with just two 90 minute training sessions on the Thursday and Friday mornings to put structures into place, they faced an organised and determined German XV keen to impress their coaches.
Head Coach Steve Hill and Captain Hugh Hogan worked well with Assistance Coach Carl Douglas and Tour Manager Tim Stevens to mix up the daily routine and challenge the team to get to know each other well and bond into a great team.
The team was joined by Penguin Senior Vice President David Townsend, his wife Indra and Penguin CEO Craig Brown for the weekend.
Many thanks to our hosts and in particular German Rugby officials - Claus-Peter Bach & Hans Wallenwein plus German Team Manager Robert Mohr and Bianka Häusler for helping with logistics, and finally our liaison officer Alex who provide a first class service.
The training and bonding sessions seemed to have paid dividends as the visitors roared into a 19 point lead after just 20 minutes, as the forwards dominated the set-piece to lay the platform for the backs to ‘strut’ their stuff. First to cross the line was No 8 and Captain Hugh Hogan as he controlled the ball at the base of the scrum to dot down close to the posts as the Penguins forwards drove the Germans back over their own line. Full-back Rory Steele added the conversion. Next to score was left wing Tom Tombleson who chose a sumptuous line through midfield to score untouched under the posts, Steele again adding the extras. The third early Penguins score, suggesting the floodgates might open, was scored by blindside flanker Tom Preece who finished off a fine move involving backs and forwards combining, Steele was this time off target with the conversion.
With the temperature still in the late 20’s, a water break was taken at the quarter-time mark and this came at the right time for the hosts who looked a little shell-shocked at this point. However, the next 20 minutes saw the Germans work their way back into the game with a combination of their own good play and determination and some basic errors from the visitors. First to cross was the German scrum-half and Captain Tim Menzel, who was a keen competitor all evening as he crossed from close range, his half-back partner Raynor Parkinson added the conversion. Then right wing Henrik van der Merve pounced on a dropped pass in midfield, hacked the ball ahead two or three times before getting a favourable bounce and diving over in the corner. Parkinson added the difficult touchline conversion to close the gap to just 5 points, making the half-time score 19 points to 14 in favour of the Penguins.
The Germans started the second half as they finished the first and added two more converted tries as the visitors seemed to lose concentration following the break. The first was an interception from Parkinson who ran in unopposed and scored under the posts, unfortunately he tweaked his hamstring and had to leave the field, but Menzel took over kicking duties and maintained the home sides 100% record. Next, centre Pascal Fisher swept up another loose pass and beat the cover defence to add a fourth try for the Germans, again Menzel kept up the German 100% kicking record and stretched their lead to 9 points.
Some stern words from the Penguins coaches, saw the visitors score next when the experienced Caine Elisara, who enjoyed a fine game, dummied his way over to narrow the gap to just 4 points with the conversion missed. However, the comeback was short lived as van der Merve added his second try from another Penguins mistake, by now the conversion was formality for Menzel as his kick put the Germans 11 points clear going into the final quarter.
This time the mid-half water break worked in favour of the Penguins, as a couple of tactical team changes and some inspiring words from Captain Hogan saw the final 20 minutes dominated by the visitors as they scored three converted tries to finally crack the German resolve. Replacement centre Paddy Levelle got the ball rolling, as he scored a brace of tries in quick succession with hard running and accurate handling putting him through holes in the German midfield defence, replacement fly-half Tom Halse kicked both conversions, putting the Penguins ahead by three points with the clock ticking down.
With only 7 minutes remaining, it looked as though the Germans would retake the lead when their left wing charged down a kick and set off for the line seemingly unopposed. However, replacement scrum-half Ali Harris showed a remarkable turn of speed and determination to catch the flying winger and tackle him in to touch, from the resulting line-out the Penguins marched up field and finished the job when Halse dummied his way through a tiring home defence to score near the posts, adding the extras to make the final score 45 points to 35 to the Penguins. The match was a wonderful example of the Penguins spirit and the late comeback showed the true value of playing the game for the full 80 minutes.
Starting XV: 1 James Doherty (Richmond) 2 Richard Halpin (Trinity College Dublin) 3 Stewart Maguire (London Scottish) 4 Caine Elisara (Pickwick Players, Holland) 5 Darren Oliver (The RAF) 6 Tom Preece (Saint Savin) 7 Brian du Toit (Trinity College Dublin) 8 Hugh Hogan (St Mary’s Dublin) (Captain) 9 Harry Peck (Cambridge University) 10 Mark Sexton (St Mary’s Dublin) 11 Tom Tombleson (Richmond) 12 Zandy Macdonald (Oxford University) 13 Chris Lewis (Barnes) 14 Hubert Brown (Richmond) 15 Rory Steele (Watsonians)
Replacements: 16 David McGregor (Heriots) 17 Martin Christie (Watsonians) 18 Richard Matthews (Barnes) 19 Tom Vaughan-Edwards (Richmond) 20 Ali Harris (Watsonians) 21 Tom Halse (RC Heyres Carqueiranne La Crau) 22 Paddy Levelle (Trinity College Dublin) 23 Marcus Holden (Hilversum, Holland)
Head Coach: Steve Hill (Richmond)
Assistant Coach: Carl Douglas
Team Manager: Tim Stevens (Oxford University)
Back row: Caine Elisara, James Doherty, Darren Oliver, Hugh Hogan, Martin Christie, Davy McGregor, Stewart Maguire, Rich Matthews, Tom Tombleson, Tom Preece, Tim Stevens
Middle row: Steve Hill, Mark Sexton, Tom Halse, Chris Lewis, Brian du Toit, Ali Harris, Paddy Levelle, Hubert Brown, Rory Steele
Front row: Tom Vaughan-Edwards, Marcus Holden, Zandy Macdonald, Harry Peck, Carl Douglas
Missing: Rich Halpin – having his cut glued.