Our website uses cookies throughout our system and to help us provide a better service. Continue to use the site as normal if you're happy with this, or click here to change your settings

Penguin International RFC tour to Orkney
19th to 21st August 2016

Article by Iain Sinclair – Penguin Tour Manager 2016

It is hard to believe that 10 years had passed since we last took a Penguin squad to the beautiful Archipelago of the North of Scotland, for the 40th Anniversary celebrations of Orkney Rugby Football club. Such was the success of the trip last time out, that when the invitation to join them for their 50th year celebrations came through, it is fair to say that deliberations were brief – Browny “Sinky, Orkney for their 50th anniversary?” – Response “In”……

Whilst many things remained unchanged such as the outstanding hospitality and sense of humour of our hosts, and the world class kite flying conditions, there was one noticeable difference this time out, and that was the standard of opposition. This is not to denigrate the efforts and capability of the Orkney class of 2007, but rather to pay tribute the manner in which the club has embraced the way the modern game has developed, against a back drop of a finite playing pool and a challenging fixture card with seemingly endless road / air trips. Orkney rugby is deservedly proud of its origins and heritage and to play a part in their 50th year celebrations was to be a truly memorable experience for all Penguins on parade.

Two waddles set off from Glasgow and Edinburgh Airports respectively on Friday 19th August, flying into Kirkwall Airport, Orkney. The assembled squad was a typically Penguin eclectic mix of no fewer than 9 nationalities from the 4 home nations, Ireland, Belarus, Italy, Australia and Portugal. The squad was ably lead by Ulster and Ireland legend, Simon Best and a coaching squad that included current Scotland assistant forwards coach and British & Irish Lion, Nathan Hines.

On arrival we were met at the airport by Ian Carse from Orkney RFC along with our weekend hosts for the meet, greet and billeting plans before an impromptu Island site seeing bus tour, courtesy of ORFC’s funny man on the bus mic, Penguin, Glen MacLellan. With a tough audience correcting Glen’s factual inaccuracies via smart phones, we stopped at various places of interest, the longest stop being not unsurprisingly at the Orkney Brewery. Having discussed the weekend nutrition plan with Hinesy, it was with much relief that we learnt about Orkney Ale during the brewery tour consisted of 99% water, as management and players took time to “hydrate” ahead of the evening team run.

With management suitably hydrated, photo call with sponsors complete, we boarded the bus back to the ground for a team run. The bus trip back to the club was not without incident, as our driver seemingly forgot that he was the one in the driving seat and supposedly in charge of the steering wheel and brakes. Our bus took out a fully straw laden, hugely big John Deere tractor and came to abrupt halt in the grass verge of the back roads of Orkney. No injuries were recorder and John Sinclair put all at ease on discovering that our recently procured, post match Orkney Ale bottles remained intact. Penguins waddled off the bus, directed traffic and cleared the road of hay bales before getting back on the now panel bashed bus and returned to Pickaquoy clubhouse for the team run….one might be forgiven for thinking it was the distraction of the rapidly declining standard of tour guide Maclellan’s microphone banter at work.

In the evening the Penguins coaching delegation ably lead by Nathan Hines and rugby’s weel-kent face, Bruce Aitchison supported by the enthusiastic Young brothers, Neil and Richie, former Orkney development officer Bruce Ruthven and Hamilton’s finest Neil Chisholm and Richard Maxton, held a clinic for the Ladies team and the U18’s. This was very well received and appreciated by all participants and observers at the club.

Saturday morning saw ALL penguins on parade as we took over 75 mini rugby children for a round robin coaching style clinic. The Penguin players, coaches and management were all involved and this turned out to be a fantastic start to the special day of celebrations. After the coaching session, the kids then had the opportunity to get autographs, pictures and all left with a rugby ball and penguin coaching academy kit courtesy of PIRFC kit sponsor Grove. After the children dispersed, the squad settled for pre-match meal followed by jersey presentation.

As the players got changed and ready for the 2pm Kick Off, it was starting to become apparent that there was a very different feel to the impending match. I went out ahead of the squad to watch ORFC warm up and it was at that point, I noted the marked change in player physique and skill level to that encountered some 10 years hence. The forwards looked physically dynamic in stature and the backs were running lines akin to a Scottish premiership side from the central belt. With Penguin team selection always being a challenge in matching capability, merit, age and fitness, it became evident that it was going to be a tough day at the office.

The game kicked off in front of an excited 350 strong crowd at the Pickaquoy sports field, and Orkney made their presence felt early on with some creative running and decisive phases from the breakdown and early pressure paying off with two tries in quick succession from ORFC’s Duncan Gray. The challenge for any Penguin side is the need to learn quickly and on your feet when playing with players you may never have taken the pitch with. The selection of Penguin veteran and former England 7’s player, Howard Graham, proved key as he created structure and pivot from 10 to bring the PIRFC backs into play at every opportunity in the first 20mins. Robust defensive effort from ORFC however stymied Penguin endeavours and enthusiastic ORFC back row play, turned over loose Penguin rucking to repel hard fought territory.

The early loss of Penguins mesmeric back row forward Stephen Wands, proved telling for the visitors as they struggled to assert dominance in the loose in the first half. Despite early concerns of being overpowered in the set piece, it was a truly awesome performance from the veteran prop forward combination of Captain Best and his other cornerstone, in Scotland’s finest, Barry Stewart. Their vast experience and technically superior capability was more than a match for the raw strength of their younger opponents and with their unrelenting competitive instincts perhaps even giving them the upper hand throughout the contested scrums (their words not mine!).

The set piece however wasn’t just down to the two “oldie” props but was in fact shored up with the (new found) bulk of former Scotland cap, Iain Fullerton in the second row and partner(s) Neil Young and Tim Gableko (Belarus trialist). After a rather brisk start to the match, Fully’s pink flushed complexion on the 5 minute mark did not bode well for his lasting to the half hour mark let alone half time but testament to the man’s grit and boyish enthusiasm in the loose, he dug in for what was a typically impressive jaunt on the rugby pitch after a few years of carbo loading….

At Half time our hosts were leading 19-5 with the Penguins yet to show much sign of turning the tables. Changes were made for some well needed fresh legs. In the second half, PIRFC’s hooker Connor Mckay continued to impress with some excellent forays into opposition half and as tired legs on both sides saw play open up, Mckay put in a performance meritorious of our man of the match closely followed by half back Grant Spence. Other notable performances came from Rugby Roma’s front row replacement Francesco Longsurnameio and the squad’s mongrel back row youngster from Kirkcaldy, Rhys Bonnar.

With the game opening up and with only 20mins left on the clock, Manager Sinclair was joined by Coach Hines as they took the pitch together for the first time in 15 years and it was Sinclair’s first Penguins XV’s match since Germany and Argentina tour in 2001, and boy it showed! Hines made immediate impact with his trade mark unwelcome commentary to the referee, whilst Sinclair slotted in (hid) at number 8. The superior fitness of the opposition and their collective organisation paid off and despite a couple of late tries from the Penguins to restore some pride, Orkney finished deserved winners at 38-15 in what proved to be an entertaining match for the home support.

In the evening we were invited to attend the ORFC 50th Anniversary gala dinner in what turned out to be a fantastic and memorable evening with a sell out attendance of 600 people. Penguin Trustee, Andrew Thornhill and his wife Helen made the trip to join us at the match and in the evening. Also, despite being in some obvious discomfort with a back injury, Penguin stalwart David Townsend made the trip, dinner and tie presentation to the new Penguins in Orkney. Well done and thanks DTee.

Words of thanks were made by ORFC Club president Rodney Spence and in response Iain Sinclair said few words of thanks and presented the club with our 50th Anniversary book, club ties and a framed, specially commissioned PIRFC Orkney Rugby Jersey for hanging in their Club house. The dinner raised a marvelous £6000 towards club funds and the evening was topped off with a debut performance of the clubs anthem that was composed and played by ORFC club legend, Ali Cant. This was truly memorable weekend for all in attendance and for those that asked me on arrival at Edinburgh Airport “What’s so special about Orkney?”, all were left with in doubt as the squad dispersed on the Sunday.

Special thanks must go to Glen Maclellan, Ian Carse and ORFC President Rodney Spence for all their hard work in making us feel so welcome and well looked after. Thanks also to Cosher and all the clubs hosts for taking us to their homes and showing us such generosity and friendship.

The club would like to thank to thank our friends at Rugby Roma for releasing two players and top blokes, Francesco and Gianluca. Salvador DaCahuna for taking care of the squads post match rehydration and making the trip at late notice from Portugal.

Back row:
John Sinclair (Glasgow, Operations Adviser), Luke Smith (Physio - 3 Olympic and 6 Commonwealth Games - 1 with Seychelles), Barry Stewart (Edinburgh Accies, Edinburgh, Sale, Northampton, Scotland), David McMaster (Heriots), Nathan Hines (Gala, Edinburgh, Leinster, Clermont, Scotland, British & Irish Lions), Grant Spence (North Berwick), Tim Gableko (HAC, Belarus), Neil Chisholm (Hamilton), Iain Fullerton (Kelso, Sale, Saracens, Scotland), Russel Holland (Sidcip), Charlie Butterworth (Lansdowne, Ulster), Rhys Bonnar (Kircaldy), Richard Maxton (Hamilton), Francesco Raimanova (Roma, Lazio Colts, Rome University), Neil Young (Redcar), Richard Young (Redcar, North England Colleges), Jamie Blackwood (Watsonians, Edinburgh, Scotland age groups & 7s), Iain Sinclair (Manager), David Townsend (Senior Vice President), Craig Brown (CEO).

Front Row: Bruce Aitchison (Coach), Salvador da Cuhuna (C.F.O's Belenenses, Lisbon, Portugal XVs & 7s), Chris Jubb (Glasgow Accies), Andrew Wilson (Stewarts Melville FP, Cayman Is 7s), Bruce Ruthven (Melrose, Scotland Dev), Simon Best (Banbridge, Ulster, Ireland – Captain), Howard Graham (Harlequins, Army, England 7s), Connor McKay (Stewarts Melville FP), Gianluca Vella (Roma, Lazio Colts), Stephen Wands (Boroughmuir, Scotland U21), Douglas Roberts (Boroughmuir).

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Integer mollis justo vitae pretium egestas. Sed non quam eros. Nullam nisl nulla, cursus eu tellus at, posuere efficitur eros. Phasellus sollicitudin lacinia lacus ut blandit. Phasellus non pharetra massa, feugiat sodales lorem. Integer pretium nibh felis, in aliquet tellus malesuada sed. Duis sagittis egestas elit, in posuere diam. Duis viverra aliquet lorem, ut fermentum purus dignissim non. Praesent accumsan lectus luctus eros volutpat tempus id eu neque. Nam ac egestas ante, ac ultrices metus. Mauris in risus auctor, rutrum lorem cursus, vulputate nisl.

Jack Speak
Community Group
Jack Speak
Community Group