This year the Breakthrough rugby tour was not held over Easter as we have found in recent years that several boys have been unable to attend because of exams or have attended just before them, rather than study.
We decided in line with the summer dates to tour to Phuket again, but unfortunately the U19 team that they used to run has now fallen by the way side, so we reached out to the Ao Leuk Prachasan School, just up the road in Krabi, who we played against on the last tour in Phuket. With thanks to May Colson, our ex-Director’s wife, who is Thai, communication, which had initially been rather difficult, became very easy and arrangements were quickly made.
We selected 28 boys, 5 coaches and with my wife and I we had a party of 35. All costs for the boys and coaches were met through some very generous donations.
The full tour party before departure
Wednesday 20 July
We met up at 6.45 at the airport and no one was late and for once there were no last-minute problems with names being spelt wrong or passports expiring within six months, thanks to all Ivan’s help and organisation. We were soon underway with the normal sprinkling of boys extra excited as this was the first time they had flown.
On arrival, we were met by our guide, Wanchai, and after a quick lunch begun the 3-hour bus journey to Krabi, giving everyone a chance to catch up on their sleep. On arrival at the Phrang Nang Inn, after a quick check-in, it was down to the beach for a training session to stretch out the journey, followed by dinner in the hotel and an early night.
Training on the beach
Thursday 21 July
Another early start was in order as we had to be at the school, an hour’s bus ride away, for a 7-a—side competition starting at 10am. We had three teams in action and they had three as well, with the help of some recent leavers. We had three games each, with each of our teams playing each of theirs.
Our first team played really well and were undefeated, scoring some great tries, playing some good sevens rugby. The other two teams also acquitted themselves well only losing one match each. We were better drilled than they were and obviously had played more sevens. We also lasted the better in the heat.
After the Games
After the rugby, we adjourned to the school open air hall for lunch but rather disappointingly were only joined by their officials. The food was excellent and it was a very tired but well-fed group of lads on the return bus journey. Back at the hotel there was some free time for everyone to relax round the pool or on the beach, before we headed out for a nice Thai seafood dinner.
Relaxing at the pool
Enjoying the Seafood Dinner
Friday 22 July
After breakfast, we headed off on a short trip to catch a speed boat on our four island tour. If you blinked you missed the first island, but we then stopped for some snorkelling at the next one. For most of the boys this was a new experience but they all had a go and despite the visibility being a bit poor there were plenty of colourful fish to see.
Snorkelling on our four island tour
It was then onto the third island for an extended stay and lunch. Some of the lads decided wrestling with Gunny, the head coach, was a good idea but they soon found that even with seven or eight of them he is not an easy man to hold down. Others dug a very deep hole in the sand, whilst others lazed around, swam or played frisbee.
After a visit to our fourth island, which was very picturesque, we headed back to the hotel. The boys then had a choice of joining Ivan on an extended shopping trip, just out of town at a large mall or a visit to a sports bar with Gunny and I to watch the Brumbies versus the Hurricanes. The lads were given money for their dinner and allowed a free evening to explore the town and night market.
Trying to take on Gunny (in numbers)
Saturday 23 July
Everyone was allowed a lie in and a late start before spending the morning relaxing on the beach, round the pool or with another shopping trip, before a light lunch and the trip to Ao Leuk Prachasan School for our 15-a-side game.
The tour party and coaches
The opposition again fielded some older players but that was not an issue, however the referee was. In the opening few minutes we were awarded a penalty under the posts and went in to a 3-0 lead but thereafter they received 14 penalties in the first half and we got no more and by half time we were 14-3 behind.
We scored a good try at the beginning of the second half and got back to 14-8. However, the penalty count again began to mount and the boys began to get rattled. As Gunny explained to them you cannot control the referee but you can control your own game and if they had concentrated harder and played to him, rather than letting themselves get annoyed, the result could have been different. Instead the Thais scored another try and we went 21-8 down. The game then got rather scrappy and a few yellow cards were dished out to both sides for some fisticuffs. No one really connected, but it seemed to bring our lads to their senses and they began to play some good running rugby. We finished the stronger and we scored a good try after some nice work in the backs, pulling the score back to a more respectable 21-15, but then unfortunately time ran out.
Action from the game
Our last try and another punch up in the background
All friends again
Trying to cheer each other up after the game
Nine boys who played their last game for us as they are over age next year.
Afterwards there was various speeches and we were awarded a cup for winning the sevens and they got one for winning the 15s. It was then back to the open-air hall for dinner and a Thai dancing show by some of the pupils, which was fun. One could never accuse the Thais of not embracing diversity.
We arrived back at the hotel in better spirits and a good court session to punish those who had done silly things, raised plenty of laughs. Afterwards most headed off for a late-night snack and the coaches headed for a beer.
Some of the dancers
After the Court session
Sunday 24 July
There was just time for some last-minute shopping (our lads could shop for HK) and a last dip in the pool before we all checked out and headed off to the airport. On the bus, we awarded the 7s trophy to our best 7s player, Ng Cheuk Wai and the best tourist award to Chau Siu Fung. The wrong doers from Court were still wearing their silly outfits which raised plenty of smiles from other passengers at the airport.
The best 7s Player
The best tourist award
Unfortunately, the typhoon in HK delayed the arrival of our aircraft and so we did not get back to HK till gone midnight, but our bus was waiting and all boys made it safely home.
Another great tour, which everyone really enjoyed. The boys were especially pleased that I hadn’t arranged any Temple tours or the like and those boys who had been on a few trips all said it was the best one they had been on. My thanks to all the very generous sponsors, particularly Eccles & Lee, Ageas Insurance International, Martin Downey, Mike Horner, Ted Devereux, Phil Crotty, Rhinos RFC, Stretchline (HK) Ltd, David Owens and Brian Mahoney. Without their and others very generous help this trip would not have been possible.