OHRFC Argentina & Uruguay Tour 9 May – 20 May 2018
From our Rugby Correspondent Ben Lawrence
Wednesday, Day 1:
OH's grand touring party of 19 all gathered in Gatwick Airport, excitement well and truly in the air. For many of us, this was out first trip to South America and a cheeky initial insight into the itinerary had most of us with a similar feeling to a kid before Christmas Day. Well received presents were duly delivered by way of our tour Polo, replica shirt and match shirts - more quality stash the merrier. For a number, including: myself, Sean Davies, Ollie RW, Jevs, Tim, Dom this was our first OH tour as well to further fuel the excitement. Onto spoons we went, to try get enough booze into us to enable sleeping the flight over.
Thursday, Day 2: Upon early arrival in Buenos Aires, and a swift transfer to the hotel we could have been forgiven for considering our timing. Torrential rain, and protests in the street outside the hotel within our first few hours there.
Nonetheless first day actually turned out rather well, firstly via a few rounds of Quilmes whilst Cpt Higgins and Coach Fairlie talked us through the tour rules and plan of action. Lunchtime we took a wander to the financial district of BA to what I must say is as good a steak house we will ever visit. Hats off to Cabana Las Lilas for their hospitality and unbeatable steaks, they are rightly recognized as the best in Argentina and small wonder all touring international sides go there.
On a sad note, Barcelo RFC had kindly offered to run a training session with us that evening - and whilst on the bus there we discovered this was called off due to adverse weather conditions. Time for a contingency plan, off we went to the bar via the hotel and some of us discovered new found abilities. Namely sleep drinking...
Friday, Day 3: We were told by Gary this was a stroll through the city centre, then lunch. Turned out to be a much longer walk than just a stroll but was well, well worth it. Firstly, we took in the view of central BA, central square etc before passing 'La Bombonera', home of Boca Juniors en route to lunch at a quite sensational BBQ style restaurant. A consistent theme of this tour was how impressed we all were with the food on offer, here no different. The 'Empanadas' were a delight and certain upgrade on the pasties we are used to, the steaks and 'Chuzzo' sausages likewise. A lively session sampling the Malbec on offer ensued, in our 'whacky shirts' outfits inspired by Skips fashion sense. Onto 'La Caminito', the main tourist street we proceeded and the locals were most hospitable throughout.
Saturday, Day 4: Our first match of tour which proved interesting conditions wise. We were made aware of the excessive rain Buenos Aires had prior to our arrival, and we arrived at Barcelo RFC to find 2 pitches in near enough waterlogged condition. Anyway, the forwards aptly led by Dom Higgins through their line out routines whilst the back lines fluidity from the off was great to see through our warm up before Skip laid the law down rallying the troops. Meanwhile, Macca turned up and fair play put a shift in second half despite still having a moustache inked across his face from the previous days session similar applies to Mr Ash Hudson who was another top tourist 'burning the candle both ends'.
Credit where due - Barcelo were a well drilled, physical and cohesive side who ran their phases well whilst running hard all day long. On the other hand, despite conditions hardly being conducive to expansive rugby OH's scored well worked run aways from Tom Whapshott, Tom Todrick and Sean Davies. Sean's try was particularly memorable, tactically swerving the puddles whilst 2 Barcelo players were hot in pursuit before a spectacular 'splash dive' under the posts. Dom Higgins rounded off the OH tries in the second half from a fantastic support line, sealing the victory in the face of a spirited Barcelo come back (assisted by changing nearly their whole team on approximately the 50 minute mark!). OH's defence particularly round the fringes was excellent, whilst Fig did his thing with his kicking game including a spectacular banana kick putting us in the corner. Defensively Timmo, Dom and Skip put in considerable hits whilst Gibbo, Olly Reakes Williams and Henry carried well all day.
Hospitality after the game was notable, with steak sarnies, Quilmes and cups of Fernet Branco in plentiful supply. For the record their steak sarnies are the best I have had! Thoroughly decent rugby side, thoroughly decent blokes off the pitch as well. Final score: Barcelo RFC 12 - OHRFC 24
Sunday, Day 5: Time to get out of Buenos Aires, and off to a ranch that took around 2 and a half hours to reach. Via a dirt track, which was an interesting ride to say the least. All bar 1 took part in horse riding in the countryside, before another outstanding sit down lunch. Food was ever appetizing, and the locals most welcoming. Later on in the afternoon came flamenco dancing lessons, where some myself included tried to get out of it. Eventually I was dragged out and likely looked like a pug on ice to the onlooking audience.
Monday, Day 6: Onto Uruguay - where first impressions of Montevideo were interesting. More shipwrecks than you could shake a stick at in the bay, luckily we soon found yet another decent steak house in the evening before settling down.
Tuesday, Day 7: Game Day! Dominic Higgins gave a party of approx 10 an entertaining whilst informative guided tour of the city centre and old town, before proceeding to the local market. Stopping off for an early lunch from a fantastic selection of Empanadas, we set off on a casual stroll along the promenade facing the sea to the beach the other side of the city. Little bit of downtime to kill on the beach before an evening kick off at Montevideo Cricket Club.
Now to the game where we were up against the oldest rugby club in existence outside the UK, and 8th oldest in existence. And you could tell from the clubhouse and grounds what a club they are. One of the more impressive first team pitches many of us would have played on and I would struggle to name many more memorable club houses. Portraits of 2 current Uruguay internationals on the walls, alongside the plaque from the RFU speak volumes for the club they are.
For the game itself, the first half hour was played at such a ferocious intensity and physicality credit where its due to them we did exceptionally well to keep in the game come half time. Their two tries were genuine quality (and serious pace!). OH's started the fight back in the latter part of the first half, notable steals from Timmo and a break from Eamon which I think caught everyone by surprise...
Second half, we kept fighting and I saw some of the best rugby you will see from an OH side second half. Skip scored two blinders from typically hard, direct running lines whilst Chris Potter turned on the after-burners to dot down by the posts. Jevs forced his way over the line from the back of the scrum for a well-deserved try in a blinding tour, with Bison making a notable break hitting a hard line outside their 3rd guard making something like 40 yards in the process. Impressive from a prop :). Ben De Fig continued to distribute with consummate class from 10, Potter and Skip were outstanding in the centres and the physicality from everyone was on-form. A well-deserved, notable 12-26 win for OHRFC. Thank you to the 3 Montevideo CC boys who played for us, who each played brilliantly.
After the game, hospitality was top class yet again and we thank their Head Coach for his kind words after the game. And I'm sure they will thank us for buying up a whole fridge of Heineken in their club house as well.
Wednesday, Day 8: Morning was used to recover some sore bodies from the night before, before a day of 'team building' exercises which rolled over into a fun evening out. Said evening out involved hiding the 2 'snitches' - both hard to cover up draped in Uruguay flags, and Ash's booming voice blowing any form of cover.
Thursday, Day 9: Back to BA, whilst attempting to 're-charge' batteries for some from what had been a demanding whilst fun tour to date. Another exceptional steak house was visited, with further wine (Malbec/Merlot) tasting before heading out in Palermo. Interesting style of nightlife compared to what we are used to back home, but all in all a great experience even for those of us with limited Spanish to communicate with the locals.
Friday, Day 10: A boat tour around the delta was arranged for the majority of the party, whilst some took it upon themselves to explore parts of central maybe missed. Or simply chill before the final blast the next day!
Saturday, Day 11: Final game versus Cune RFC. Game played in the spirit of the game, with injuries taking their toll on OHRFC to the point we had a bare 15. Cune likewise, with if I recall correctly only the one sub.
A brisk warm up, and a sharp wake up call from Dominic Higgins and we were underway. Didn't take OHs long to register our first quick-fire tries - Rob Petherick at the double through characteristic hard lines from the set piece, and Sean Davies doing his best to compete for the 'Tour Top Try Scorer' award. Two of Sean's were sensational, beating numerous defenders and showing everyone what hes shown us all season - gas and elusive running. An intelligent kick through put Tom Whapshott over, whilst another cross-field kick shortly before half time was unlucky not to yield another score. Cune got one back through a well-executed rolling maul I recall, who hats off to them kept fighting all game.
Come second half, Cune to their credit scored a quick brace of tries themselves to make the game a contest (albeit a huge slice of luck with one of their kicks!). OH's reacted strongly with Jev's going over again through typically bullish carrying, and Olly Reakes Williams scored a blinder running a short angle from the ruck. OH scoring for the day was rounded off by a barn-storming carry from Henry Davies going over in the corner, and Sean Davies completing his hat-trick swatting off the remaining covering defense after scorching away.
Final score: Cune 24 - OHRFC 60.
Cune's hospitality after the game was brilliant, with an out-door barbecue keeping us all in ample supply of Chuzzo and Steak sarnies, with some Fernet Branco going around as well. Fair to say they had a few characters on them, and an entertaining afternoon and sing-along was had.
Off to the Jaguars game we went to further add to a tour of a lifetime, for most our first ever game of Super rugby - and it didn't disappoint! The Jaguars ran in 8 tries in a 54-24 thriller, with some exquisite rugby on show. Hats off they play with a real intensity, physicality and 'balls' to go for it when it’s on. The speed of hands and sharpness of the running angles were a joy to behold, and anyone who doesn't enjoy watching Nicolas Sanchez and co playing frankly isn't a genuine rugby fan.
Post the Jaguars game, final court order was held before a number of us headed out to Palermo for one final night out of tour. And in some people’s cases, gave themselves sub 2 hours sleep before the flight back next day. Yep.
Points for: 100
Points against: 48
Tries for: 18
Tries against: 8
Top try scorers:
Rob Petherick - 5
Sean Davies - 4
Jevs - 2
Tom Whapshott - 2
Forward of the Tour: Dominic Higgins
Back of the Tour: The fat grumpy number 9
Player of the Tour: Rob
Top 'Tourist': Thomas Whapshott
All in all, a thank you is in order to everyone who toured for making it such a memorable one. Top tourists, top blokes making it a tour of a lifetime for many.
Updated 14:04 - 9 Jul 2018 by Philip Huckin