Tough but rewarding weekend for IoM schools rugby players
The Isle of Man schools rugby team and their Boys Club of Wales counterparts after the final match of the tour last weekend (Photo: Richard Ebbutt)
Isle of Man schools rugby team hosted the Boys Club of Wales at Douglas RUFC over the weekend in what were some tough but rewarding fixtures.
The Welsh side came to the island following a mini touring series of England playing different representative sides and academies.
The Sale Sharks (IoM) DPP were the first opponents of their tour on Friday afternoon and it was soon evident who the island were up against. Boasting a number of young Ospreys, Scarletts and Cardiff Blues academy players, the Welsh outfit were a class act.
Their skilful, fast-flowing, high-intensity rugby was a joy to watch but tough to play against and, despite some excellent spells by the Manx boys, they came off second best. Captain Rob Doherty really led from the front in what was a gruelling but valuable experience for the boys.
The under-18 Welsh side then played the IoM schools side, a representative team including all six island schools along with UCM.
The visitors started strongly, looking to keep the ball alive at every opportunity and punish the Manx team with their skill and pace.
Playing against the wind in the first half, the Isle of Man team found it tough to exit their own half and it took a while for the boys to get used to the intensity required.
After conceding a few tries, the Manx lads came to life with Ethan Kermode, Aaron Hempsall and Jake Richmond causing problems in attack.
Toby Poole-Wilson carried well at No.8 and was handed the man of the match award by his opponents for his troubles.
As the locals put some phases together and upped their level of aggression at the breakdown, the Wales boys were forced onto the back foot and, when Harry Wallis and Stephan de Beer pulled two tries back, it showed the crowd at Douglas Rugby Club what the schools players are capable of.
In the second half the Boys Club of Wales stepped up again to show their class and ruthlessness with a number of well-worked tries to win the game, but it was the Manx lads that kept pushing and came back with a wonderful team try finished by paceman Tony Quinn under the posts.
An IoM schools u16 team then played on the Saturday morning with several boys featuring in both fixtures despite some tired bodies.
The team applied themselves well and worked together to nullify the Welsh attacks, but as the game went the constant defending took its toll on the boys and they came up second best.
George Curphey at full back was a threat throughout, impressing the Welsh coaches who awarded him the u16 man of the match.
The u18 game on Saturday was a different starting XV for the Isle of Man schools side, showing the island boasts many talented rugby players at u17 and u18 across the Isle of Man.
The Welsh lads started fast, showing slick handling skills and a great offloading game to score two early tries. The Manx boys fronted up to the task and really dug in, having some success of their own and causing problems for the Welsh side in midfield.
Tom Collister was a thorn in the side of the visitors all game with big tackles and carries from centre. A well-deserved try came at 60 minutes, but it was to no avail as the Welsh side did some further damage as the Isle of Man tired towards the end.
Despite coming off second best all weekend, the boys can take pride in their performances and the Isle of Man side can hopefully use these games as a catalyst to progress under-18s rugby further in the island.
Scott Quinnell was down to watch the games after speaking at a dinner at the Hilton the night before and the former Welsh international and School of Hard Knocks TV star paid tribute to the Manx boys’ heart, commitment and attitude, stating that he was very impressed.
The Isle of Man schools team has been able to come together for two years with no opportunities to travel, so with some hard work hopefully the boys will grow together from these experiences.
A huge thank you goes to the referees and everyone at Douglas Rugby Club for hosting what was a fantastic weekend of rugby for the Isle of Man.
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