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After a season heavily disrupted by repeated fixture cancellations, this past weekend saw 22 members of the girl’s rugby squad take to the road for a weekend of rugby in the South West. But what better way to fire them up for such an adventure than a round or two of paintball? As the two sides lined up for their first contest of the tour, led on one side by Mr. Bala and Miss White and the other by Mr. Brown and alumni Naiara Osako, the anticipation to settle some scores was palpable…amongst the staff at least. It was a keenly fought battle that set the tone for an equally battling weekend ahead, with the girls showing fantastic aggression and Mr. Brown perhaps getting just a little carried away (how often does a coach get this chance after all?). 

Spirits remained high as the squad travelled ever westward to Cardiff for an evening fixture against Coleg y Cymoedd under lights and surrounded by the Caerphilly Mountains which would be sure to test our band of largely novice rugby players. And so it was to be, the girls immediately finding themselves under near constant pressure from their experienced and physical opponents. Despite this, the girls battled hard for the full 60 minutes, even in the face of impossible odds, distinguishing themselves in trying circumstances. Perhaps no one personified this better than Clem C who had the severe misfortune of audibly injuring a ligament in her foot after turning her ankle but still showed the determination to carry the ball some 10m through contact. Her reward? A full night stay in the luxury of a Bristol A&E with Mr. Bala and Miss White. 

Suffice it to say that the squad woke up battered, bruised and bleary eyed but ready for some more rugby nonetheless. After a gentle start, the squad hit the road once more down to Exeter to watch the women’s match between Exeter and Loughborough. Despite the drizzly conditions, the girls seemed to really enjoy watching the pros of the women’s game battle it out. The girls were treated to a further masterpiece when watching the England vs Ireland 6 Nations game on the bus ride back to Bristol for the squad dinner! I am quite sure that many of Bristol’s finest set out for an evening of (relatively) fine dining not anticipating the arrival of “The Fishettes” and being party to the sights and sounds of the annual tour court session. Now the details of these extra-judicial trials are naturally heavily redacted, but what I can say is the spirit in which the squad engaged in the activities as well as the joy in which they threw each other under the bus spoke to the real success of this tour. Tours such as this one are first and foremost about the players celebrating their shared passion and bonding as a squad. It was truly a delight to see the girls freely mixing and laughing, though I think the staff will all agree that perhaps the karaoke microphone could be left at home next time.

The final day would see one more challenging game against our gracious but talented hosts, North Bristol RFC. This game followed a similar pattern to the first, with the Tiffinians battling tenaciously against an onslaught of speed and power born out of experience we couldn’t hope to match with most players having little more than 6 months of rugby experience to call upon. But the growth shown across just this weekend alone was evidenced by Tiffin’s ability to build more potent attacking phases despite this challenge. Sadly, multiple phases and penalties in the opponent’s 22 would ultimately go unrewarded as a further defeat was endured. It says a lot that despite the obvious odds against them, the squad held themselves to high enough standards to feel disappointed by this outcome. But such disappointment was more than balanced by the rightful sense of endeavour their play had demonstrated and the sense that a weekend such as this acts as the perfect cornerstone for the squad looking forward, first and foremost to next week’s Rosslyn Park 7s.

All the staff would like to thank the girls for a wonderful weekend that perfectly embodied the combined values of rugby and Tiffin: selfless determination and good humour.