|The tour squad in their training tops sponsored by Grainger Roofing before their match against Capilano RFC which they won 65-0.|
MEMBERS of the Firsts team from Friends' School, Lisburn took part in their first major overseas Rugby tour when they spent time in Vancouver, Canada last month.
The Squad left Belfast on October 23 and after a gruelling flight, they finally arrived in the Canadian city, where they got some rest before quickly getting down to action the next morning as they prepared for their match with Capilanos Rugby Club.
|Friends' player David McGuigan spoils the opposition lineout during the match against Cowichan Secondary School in which Friends' won 42-3.||Friends' squad member Michael Cochrane in action against Capilano RFC in the tour shirts sponsored by GR Homes.|
Spirits were high amongst the team and they were all eager to get going. The morning of their first match they headed off to Stanley Park where they had a light session in preparation for the game that afternoon, excitement was certainly building. The team's expectations for British Columbia were realised in the fullest sense as they really began to appreciate the spectacular scenery that surrounded them.
The team arrived at Capilanos Rugby Club in good time and the squad were able to prepare well for the upcoming fixture. As it was, Capilanos were unable to field their strongest team due a number of injuries and other commitments and so the Friends team quickly found themselves in a commanding position. With tries coming from Dezi Eastwood, Craig Lewsley, Patrick Pringle, Ben Semple, Michael Cochrane, David McGuigan, James Vance, Andy Vance and Ben McMullan the team came away with a convincing 65-0 victory.
The squad then took the ferry over to Vancouver Island which would be their home for the next few days. Arriving on the Island they immediately made for Victoria. After stopping off for a brief training session at MacDonald Park they checked in to the Harbour Towers hotel, before spending time sightseeing.
The next day the boys had a light training session and then journeyed to Cowichan Valley where they would play their second game of the tour against Cowichan Secondary School. The drive provided another opportunity to enjoy the truly spectacular scenery which they were becoming more and more accustomed to.
The game was played in perfect conditions which allowed for the running rugby that suits the team so well and this style was quickly converted to points. Despite dealing with some different interpretations to the laws of the game the boys put on quite a display winning the game 42-3. Tries came from Craig Lewsley, David McGuigan, James Vance and Andy Vance. A special mention goes to Michael Cochrane who increased his personal tally with an impressive hat-trick.
|Friends' pupils enjoy the thrills and spills of whale watching off Vancouver Island during their recent rugby tour.||Friends' Firsts Captain Alasdair Trimble meets the locals during a kayaking adventure on Vancouver Island.|
The squad also had time for some fun along the way, spending the next day kayaking off the Gulf Islands not far from Cowichan Valley, as well as managing a round of golf at the local 9-hole par 3 course.
Day seven of the tour was perhaps the day that most people had looked forward to. The morning was spent whale watching off the coast of Victoria and although they didn't see any whales, the scenery was beautiful and the chance to also see bald eagles and sea lions made the trip worth while. The thrills and spills out on the speedy RIBS was also a memorable experience.
The Friends' squad then made the drive to Shawnigan Lake, their home for the next night, which was mainly spent preparing their minds for the big test ahead in the form of Shawnigan Lake School who were the provincial rugby champions.
The Shawnigan side were able to field a number of U19 internationals but the boys really put on a performance. A first half try from Andy Vance more than settled the nerves and the boys quickly found themselves in a highly competitive encounter. Tensions were close to boiling over on a number of occasions but the team showed a great deal of maturity and composure to come away with a 5-0 victory.
The next morning was spent travelling back to the mainland where the Friends' team would find their final opponents, Hugh McRoberts Secondary School. The squad as a whole were somewhat fatigued, however, they managed to pull another victory out of the bag with impressive performances coming from Paul Anderson, Duncan Malcolm, Matthew Uprichard and Ryan McCormick. The boys ended up with a 40-14 win which provided a solid end to the tour.
On the penultimate day in Canada the squad made their way to the Capilano Suspension Bridge. The boys enjoyed the high ropes before setting off for Grouse Mountain. Managing to make it to the top, the squad enjoyed the rewarding views and after visiting a grizzly bear enclosure they grabbed lunch and set off down the Gondola back to the coach.
That evening the team had the chance to watch a Canadian Football match between the BC Lions and the Calgary Stampeders. The atmosphere was memorable and the game was enjoyed by all.
For their final day the team ventured down to Vancouver city centre, just a short walk from the hotel. The boys managed to get a fair deal of shopping done. The team would like to thank the staff, their major tour sponsors GR Homes, Roadmix and Grainger Roofing, and also their hosts in Canada as the tour would simply not have been possible without them. The tour was, for everyone involved, a time that will live long in the memory.
|Friends' squad along with the Shawnigan Lake team after a hard fought 5-0 victory by the Friends' Firsts.|