Article by Neil Young
Another year, another fantastic touring opportunity for the King Penguins, this time to the beautiful shores of Malta and a reunion with our fellow Penguin, Pierre, who works tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure the Annual Malta Vets is a huge success, and he didn’t disappoint.
Youngey was once again relishing the opportunity as Tour Manager and had managed to assemble a strong squad for the trip, unlike the British & Irish Lions, it was heavily weighed in favour of our friends from North of the Border but alas they didn’t disappoint.
Pierre was good to his word and the 4 Day rugby package was sure not to disappoint.
The vast majority of tourists arrived on Friday 5th May preceded by the Pathfinders from Yorkshire, no not the farmers, but none other than Tony Penn and his Merry Men from Pocklington RUFC, Shane Sellars and Lee Bythway. Not to be outdone, the Orks set sail in their dingy on Wednesday, via Glasgow and landed Thursday, just in time to acclimatise and acquaint themselves with the bright orange glare coming from above. Glen McClellan was not alone this time and brought along fellow Orkney stalwarts Kevin Sinclair and Gary Coltherd, of which all three were magnificent hosts for the Penguin International RFC visit to Orkney in August 2016.
Friday saw the remainder of the squad arrive at various times throughout the day and into the early evening. It wasn’t long before the team bonding began around the rooftop pool before heading off to the pre tournament BBQ and festivities held at Marco Polo Hostel in St Julians. The night was a huge success and the lure of the St Julians strip was a real test for our athletes, that said, all were present and correct for the bus trip to the stadium on Saturday morning, all apart from Adam Buchannan Smith, who as we are well aware will often choose to travel alone, so he can be at one with his pre-match nerves.
We arrived at the ground and due to staggered arrivals into Malta the announcement of Captain was delayed until prior to the first game. Ben Breeze was given the honour and privilege and delivered on every piece of the jigsaw to ensure a successful tour was had by all. Four further teams made up the pool of five, which suddenly dawned on a number of our players that this wasn’t Kansas anymore, and that they would have to be mentally and physically prepare themselves for four games of 20mins.
Marauders RFC – Malta
King Penguins – Various
Kidderminister Carolians RFC – England
Sefton RFC – England
ASD Rugby Monza – Italy
Game 1: King Penguins 0 v 0 Kidderminister Carolians RFC
The King Penguins opened the tournament against an extremely keen and well drilled Kidderminister Carolians XV who have toured and still play together back home, this was quite evident within the first 10mins as KP’s held strong and somehow managed to keep them out under sustained pressure. Unfortunately we lost one of our most influential player in Ian Warbrick with only a few minutes gone in the game, it turned out to be quite serious, so much so that Iain ended up in hospital with a broken collar bone, moments later Adam Lowles pulled up with a hamstring injury, and with only 5mins gone in the first game the KP’s were depleted. After sustained pressure Youngey Snr took an interception and broke free with only one man to beat, he gifted it to Kevin Sinclair for a free run to the try line, unfortunately the thought of running freely for the remaining 40m was all that Sincy needed to throw the ball to the floor, and that was the end of the KP’s first real attack.
A few squandered chances and a heroic defensive display earned the King Penguins a 0-0 draw but some work to be done before the next game.
Unlike other King Penguins tours there wasn’t any real opportunity to harness the ethos of the Penguins in relation to coaching and supporting junior clubs from the area, but once again the ethos and spirit shone through in the game immediately after the first game with four King Penguins helping ASD Rugby, Italy fulfil the fixture with a full 15man squad. Douglas Meikle, Jason Nicholas, Keith Wallace and Jonathan Chico were all commended for their efforts.
Throughout the tournament this continued and the KP’s stepped up to support Marauders RFC and Sefton RFC who had suffered injuries throughout, it really is great to see, and is what rugby is all about. Well done to all those KP’s who assisted other teams.
Game 2: King Penguins 33 v 0 ASD Rugby Monza
The second game of the tournament pitched the KP’s against Italian opposition. After sustaining large amounts of pressure in the first game it was nice to get ball in hand and play some expansive rugby, Richie Young stepped in to scrum-half, and Captain Breeze steered the ship from 10 and it wasn’t long before both combined to score under the posts, a simple conversion followed. The KP’s began to string some lovely passages of play together and it wasn’t long before the scoreboard began to tick over with some well worked tries to match the effort in defence with another clean sheet.
Game 3: King Penguins 21 v 0 Sefton RFC
Although the score doesn’t suggest a tight game Sefton RFC put together an extremely competitive performance with some strong runners and physical battles at the breakdown. Some further injuries struck but the KP’s managed to put together 3 perfectly executed tries all of which were converted and once again held strong in defence to see off any late surge.
Game 4: King Penguins 35 v 14 Malta Marauders
As the KP’s headed in to their final game with the Malta Marauders they knew that a gap of 12 clear points would see them lift the trophy as Festival Winners over the Kidderminster Carolians.
A Malta Barbarians team took to the field as once again the true rugby spirit took over and all teams pitched in to ensure the hosts completed the final game with a full compliment of players. KP’s took an early lead with two quick tries but were soon under pressure after a high tackle on the line led to a penalty try and a sin-binning for the Ork. The KP’s quickly regathered and scored again through some excellent interlinking between forwards and backs before another injury left the KP’s threadbare and already down to 14 it was looking to close to call. More players came to the aid of Malta as they made further changes and with this brought a further try.
A few words of wisdom from Breezy under the posts and the KP’s re-gathered to score a further try from the man himself, with a few minutes remaining Malta’s biggest threat picked up the ball to set off on one of his trademark runs only to be met with a crunching tackle from Captain Marvel himself. This only spurred the KP’s further to score with the last touch of the game through a typical break in the centres from Gavin Brown.
The King Penguins were crowned champions and all the teams headed for some fantastic hospitality in the clubhouse over the road.
Richie Barker was identified by one of the Malta Marauders hierarchy and awarded player of the tournament, a huge amount of KP’s were shocked by this, but nonetheless joined in the celebrations, none more so than Neil Cook who shook Richie’s hand whilst questioning the club’s decision. At this a very confused gentleman stood pondering only to realise his mistake! Both the Redcar Boys use the same tattooist and therefore he promptly apologised to Richie Barker and awarded Neil Cook with the prestigious prize – a fully expenses paid trip to Dubai in December as part of the Malta Marauders Vets Team. Unfortunately, Zimmo was left to liaise on Cookie’s behalf and the poor lad has not had any information since, we have heard that Dubai is lovely in December so please let us know what it was like John.
The celebrations continued late in to the evening, rumour has it Dougie Meikle is still celebrating.
The final day of the three-day trip was a lovely relaxing eight-hour boat trip to the island of Gozo, something that is a must, especially after celebrating a well-earned victory. Some of the players were quick to realise their bodies were not sea worthy and disappeared below deck for some R&R, others remained on deck and shared the hospitality that was once again on offer. A short stop to freshen up in the sea before anchoring in Gozo, unfortunately it was prohibited to swim in the sea due to a swarm of jelly fish, not to be outdone and to stake claim the reason he was invited on tour, Chico decided to dive in and swim around the boat somehow managing to avoid being stung, as he did so Pierre confirmed that the biggest ever sighting of a Great White Shark was spotted off the Malta coastline…….it seemed such a shame to spoil his swim that this story didn’t get passed overboard to Chico who was last seen swimming off into the sunset in search of his next rugby tour.
All in all the trip was a huge success and after some excellent discussions on the boat trip and afterwards it is hoped that the KP’s will be able to put plans in place to set out a series of trips over the coming years to some yet to be visited countries and really embark on the culture of the Penguin’s which is to spread rugby throughout the world through the coaching and playing of the game we love!
King Penguins Squad
Adam Lowles, Ben Breeze, Bruce Fair, Craig Brown, Dave Harris, Dougie Meikle, Gary Coultherd, Gavin Brown, Glen McClellan, Graeme Inglis, Ian Warbrick, Jason Nicholas, John Kerr, Jonathan Chico, Keith Wallace, Kevin Sinclair, Liam Turner, Neil Cook, Neil Young, Richie Barker, Tony Penn, Shane Sellars, Richie Young, Steve Campton.
Non Playing King Penguins
Adam Buchannan Smith, Derek Young, Duncan McNab, John Zimnoch, Lee Bythway, Liam Rogers