Schoolboys enjoy Spirit of Rugby in Pacific

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By The Armidale School Media Department


If the power of Samoans on the rugby field was not known to members of a NSW Country Schoolboys squad before their Pacific tour, they were left in little doubt afterwards.
The 25-man squad, made up of players from Wellington to Walgett and Nowra to Moree, were outsized and outplayed in their two games against Samoan teams, but finished their school holiday tour with two strong wins against Fiji sides.
Their first game against top Samoan rugby school St Joseph’s College, Apia, finished in a 17-12 loss, while their second, against an invitational XV from the Anomaa district, the breeding ground of many Samoan International players, lived up to expectation as the sternest test on the tour, with the visitors going down 20-17.
“Against St Joseph’s I reckon the boys gave away twenty kilos per player, and the Anomaa district players were even bigger,” team manager Jim Pennington said.
“In Samoa they don’t have two year categories, it’s the under 12s, then the under 20’s – so it’s basically all opens rugby. Despite the size difference, our boys played exceptionally well, as the closeness of the final scores would attest,” he said.
The visitors had solid success against Fiji, defeating Nadroga Navosa Provincial High School 28-12, and Lautoka Muslim College, 39-5.
The Armidale School ‘s Jackson Gilbey was awarded player of the tour, schoolmate Will Frost was best back.
“Dean Wilson of Narrabri also had an outstanding tour, scoring a hattrick of tries in the final game,” Pennington said.
Giving something back to their hosts, the squad, under their coach ARU North Coast Development Manager Bruce Frame, conducted five training clinics at local schools, and gave away to their opponents, sets of jerseys donated by Narrabri Blue Bulls, Hamilton Rugby Club, North Coast juniors and Country Schoolboys. They also gave away 50 pairs of rugby boots.
“The opposition in each game were very physically imposing with one boy being six foot five and one hundred and thirty five kilos. They played unstructured and very fast paced which consisted of many offloads and a shooting out of the line defence,” said Jackson Gilbey, who was awarded player of the tour.
“Our strength was our ability to shift the ball around early to tire out the big opposition. However at times we did lose our structure and found the hot, humid conditions tough going.”
He said the tourists forged new friendships an understanding of different cultures and an appreciation of living in Australia.
“Rugby wise, playing against the Fijian and Samoan style of the game was the highlight, it being a very different experience to Australian rugby.” 
The squad:
Hunter Barnett (Delungra), George Berry (Walcha), Joel Blackwell (Wollomombi), Damien Carriage (Macksville), Brad Collins (Wellington), Nicholas Cook (Newcastle), Jayden Daley (Newcastle), Jeb Freeman (Woolgoolga), Will Frost (Armidale), Jackson Gilbey (Armidale), Cody Graham (Armidale), Pierce Hayden (Glen Innes), Sam Huddy (Lismore), Clay Lillyman (Walgett), Harry Lind (Newcastle), Callum Morris (Walcha), Ben Mulligan (Moree), Matthew Nott (Narrabri), Kyle O’Hara (Armidale), Nathan Pickering (Nowra), Matthew Rasmussen (Uralla), Jordan Sheather (Macksville), Ben Stone (Newcastle), Tom Vincent (Aberdeen), Dean Wilson (Narrabri).


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