Article by Craig Brown with input from Tony Penn and Richard Young
Thanks to Turkish Airlines, the Turkish Airlines Penguins embarked on their first playing trip and second ever trip to the Philippines. With players travelling from around Europe via Istanbul. All Penguins had a fantastic journey on the way to Widening their World.
Through the offices of Philippines Rugby Union CEO Jake Letts a fantastic tour was arranged to coincide with the Asian Rugby Union Division One championship matches between the Philippines and Singapore. Whilst the two national teams were busy hunting promotion to the top division in Asian Rugby, the Philippines Development team was busy preparing for a two-match series against the Penguins, with the matches played on 23rd and 26th June at Alabang.
Through the offices of the Philippines Rugby Union, accommodation was provided in the same hotel as the Singapore national team at the Crimson Hotel in Filinvest City.
Penguin Stan Buchan from Edinburgh was named Tour Manger and Penguin Tony Penn from New Plymouth was named coach. Other management staff on tour were Abby Wills looking after Social Media and Reporting and Craig Brown managing the Coaching Academy activities and in charge of Stakeholder Liaisons.
The tour itinerary is set out below.
As per usual with the Penguins a multi-national squad was assembled with players and management representing more than 6 countries including England, Scotland, Ireland, Portugal, New Zealand and Italy.
Back row: Craig Brown (asst Manager, CEO), Abby Wills (Tour Social Media Manager), Tony Penn (Coach), Alexander Kansour (Orkney), Neil Young (Redcar), Callum Harris (Watsonians), David Lyall (Blaydon), Jack Spencer (Stourbridge), Vasco Poppe (Belenenses), Max Ashcroft (Sedgely Park), Dean Campbell (Orkney), Luigi Martelletti (Eaton Manor), George Dean (St Mary’s University), Patrick Crossley (Barnes), Stan Buchan (Tour Manager), Gamba (Liaison Officer), Mary O’Riordan (Physio),
Front row: Fernando Almeida (Belenenses), James Linklater (Orkney), Chris Poole (Penarth), Michael Hogan (St Mary’s University), Ali Harris (Watsonians), Gregor Gillanders (Rosslyn Park), Chris Walker (London Scottish – Captain), Mark Sinclair (Stewarts Melville), Kris Bratton (Kendal), Johnny Matthews (Boroughmuir), Bradley Barnes (Clifton), Richard Young (Redcar), Ewan Miller (Watsonians)
Match One: Penguins v Philippines – 84 - 12
Match Two: Penguins v Philippines – 68 - 42
Match One Report
A telling factor for the Penguins during this game was going to be the heat and humidity with the opposition used to playing in these conditions' week in, week out. The match kicked off with cloudy skies overhead and a temperature of 30°C.
The Penguins went on to the attack from the whistle and strung together multi-phases making good progress up the field with a mixture of backs and forward combining. A pleasing facet for coach Penn was the ball protection, clear out and continuity. Due to the conditions and some sleight of hand that did not come off, a few errors crept into the game, leading to a number of scrum resets. The Penguin pack had the ascendency for most of the game in the scrum so had a good supply of go forward ball.
The Philippines team kicked most of the ball they won to gain territory but as soon as they handed the ball back to the Penguins, they would run it back in wave after wave of attacks. The attacking philosophy was fairly simple – run a few plays close to the tackle point, get a good clear out with fast recycled ball and repeat. Once the defence opened up a little, the ball was set to the wide channels for the Penguins to attack down the touchlines.
The strategy paid off with a number tries scored before the half time interval with all players involved.
A few of the Penguins were breathing heavily at half time – the heat was making its presence felt - and Coach Penn rotated the bench, as did the opposition. Into the second half and it was a similar story with the Penguins a bit too organised for the Philippine team and their ability to keep the ball alive and keep it moving, eventually exposed gaps in the defence.
Overall a very good performance by the Penguins and one coach Penn confirmed was a good effort from a team playing its first match with only one practice.
Match Two Report
The second game was once again played in extremely hot and humid conditions and despite the team nursing a few injuries from game one, the Penguins managed to produce a similar performance.
Led strongly by Jack Spencer and Alex Kansour, the Penguin pack asserted their dominance from the outset, and their mobile and motivated display set the platform for the Penguin backline to show case their flair.
Vasco Poppe was handed the 10 shirt and was showing his vast array of skills, kicking well and causing the Philippine defence all sorts of?problems.
The second half brought a bolstered Philippines team with the addition of a few national team players. This brought the Penguins fresh challenges with a more organised and skill defence now to break down. The Penguin ball carriers continued to run strongly and made meters around the breakdown, with the home side still struggling with the size and physicality of the visitors.
Due to the heat the game was cut short to the relief of the many exhausted players.
There were many notable performers strongly led by Fernando Almeida, Ewan Miller with Kris Bratton and Richie Young being strong at the back.
Although the score greatly reflected the dominance the Penguin side had, it must be noted that the home side were very courageous and never gave up,?but were simply no match for the bigger more experienced Penguin side.
The Harris (l) and Young brothers posing. Both families were delighted on the selections!
The first coaching session was for local children at Southern Plains fields in Alabang as part of a rugby festival run in parallel with the international matches. This was scheduled for Saturday morning, the day of the first match. The eight reserves for the match plus Craig Brown and Abby Moonbeam-Brown headed off from the hotel at 8AM to arrive in time to run the sessions.
The Turkish Airlines Penguins were greeted by an enthusiastic group of children and parents with various numbers in each age group covering U8 up to U17. The Penguins quickly got the groups assigned to the players, set out some space for them, and got the sessions underway. There were four groups and each group focused on core skills and developed though conditioned games.
Of particular mention was the group run by Richard Young, which was the U15 to u17 group. The Focus from Richard, which followed the feedback from the group, was on attacking games. Richard imparted his knowledge to the full and moved on with conditioned game focusing on space, protecting the ball and continuity. Overall there were over 100 parents and children who benefited from the Turkish Airlines Rugby Academy,
In summary, a number of great coaching sessions and what was magic was the children staying to watch the two international matches.
Turkish Airlines who widened our world
Tsunami and Grove Industries for ensuring we looked the part on and off the field
Jake Letts and Jovan Masalunga from the Philippines Rugby Union
Gamba, our liaison officer
Tour Entertainments Manager Neil Young
Coach Tony Penn and skipper Chris Walker and many thanks to Graeme (Stan) Buchan for managing an excellent tour
Tour Management – Mary, Gamba, Craig, Tony and Stan