Report by Craig Brown
The Penguins travelled to Helsinki for a match against the Polar Bears, a Finnish select team that usually only plays on tour. The tour was arranged in principle via a chance meeting at the Hong Kong Tens in April 2019, between Penguin Graeme Inglis and John King from the Polar Bears. This was country #79 for the Penguins, so another milestone on the journey of the Club.
The team was selected mainly from the UK but also included players from Qatar, Australia, Sweden, Portugal and New Zealand, and was coached by Penguin Steve Hill and managed by Craig Brown. Adam Rueben (Exeter Chiefs Dr) joined the Penguins again as team Doctor and Shane Lewis, England Rugby referee, joined the tour as the match referee.
The team arrived into Helsinki on Thursday 27th June, with players travelling from many different destinations and all meeting at the hostel near the centre of town on Katajanokka Island. First up was a meet and greet with our hosts at the culturally savvy Helsinki Aussie bar. New friendships were formed and the team had an opportunity to explore Helsinki. Being near the summer solstice, there was not much darkness with daylight till about midnight and the sun was up again by 3AM!
The team was up and away by 11AM for training at the match pitch at the Otaniemi Sports Park, Aalto University, Espoo.
Coach Hill trained the team for 90 mins covering introduction and get to know each other games, followed by unit and team play. The sessions finished up with the defensive strategies to be used and these were put into action through live mini games. Chris Walker was named as skipper. This was Chris’ 4th Penguin tour after being part of the 2008 COBRA/Borneo Tens team (champions of Borneo Tens), 2013 victorious Hong Kong Tens team and captaining the Philippines tour in 2018.
Match day duly arrived and the team went through the usual preparation. We had a 30 min bus journey to the ground; the match started on time and the Penguins gained early ascendance. In an eagerly fought contest, the Penguins had a healthy lead at half time and in the spirt of developing the game, the teams mixed up for the second 40 mins. All Penguins played well with strong performances from man of the match Henry Wainwright from Carlisle and Lewis Berg from Watsonians.
match the Penguins ran a 30 minute coaching session for the Polar
Bears. This focused on set plays (scrum and lineout) and the backs
introduced some new moves to the Polar bears and ran through defence
from 1st phase, rucks/mauls.
Adam Rueben (Exeter Chiefs, Tour Dr), Sam Carmen (Sidcup), James Thornton (Pocklington), Cameron Hill (Duns), Alastair Ryan (Barnes), Henry Wainwright (Carlisle), Joe Brown (Pocklington), Oscar Larsson (Pingvins, Sweden), Fernando Almedia (Agronomia, Portugal), Chris Walker (Sidcup, NZ U21 - Captain), Eric Sjöbeck (Pingvins, Sweden), Harry Fisher (Watsonians), Steve Hill (Tour Coach).
After the match and training session, the teams mixed together to rehydrate and meet each other. The Polar Bears joined in with the Penguin kangaroo court, with Polar Bear coach John King confirming most would not have seen it before. Nothing too serious but a lot of fun. After showers the group headed to local Irish bar O’Leary’s for dinner and speeches.
A great short tour and thanks to all who helped getting the trip of the ground including Steve Hill, Adam Reuben, John King and Ali Al-Itawa.
Left. What rugby is all about - Niall from the Penguins and Ali from the Polar Bears.