The band of brothers
35 “KRFC Tourists” were about to embark on their 5th Annual pilgrimage to The Heineken European Cup Final in Edinburgh – the cultural capital of Scotland. The meticulously planned overnight trip requires monumental stamina and a unique skill set from each individual – THE CROSS KEYS had featured prominently on most Tourists training regimes.
As the brave tourists assembled, Via Via provided a first-rate Italian-Anglo banquet comprising bruschetta with sun dried tomatoes, chorizo and mozzarella paninis and thankfully complimented by copious unlimited Peronis – sumptuous!
The anticipation grew as the respected Disciplinary Committee read out the Tour Rules – we were to support the inspiring “Help for Heroes” charity. Songs had to be learned, Tourists had to be prefixed by being called “Brothers.” and only 6 items of clothing were allowed, shoes counted as 1 each. The major rule of “What goes on Tour, stays on Tour”* was to be adhered to at all times.
A galaxy of galacticos across a wide spectrum from a Barrister and an Audiologist to 6th form students and an Irish tinker ranging from 17 (but with fake ID) up to… er….um…….32 ish (years not stone) were about to be awarded one of rugby’s Holy Grails – as prized as an England Cap, as worshipped as a British Lions shirt, our Band of Brothers were about to be awarded their very own infamous KRFC tour shirt – individually designed for each excursion – but always in shocking pink. These complimented our individual hats that were, of course, in the same hue.
30 dedicated athletes plus an 18 stone muscle bound “pink dressed lady”, our very own Knutty the Lion mascot, a father and son combo, a naked pig and the all important all seeing, all hearing Health and Safety officer together with 600+ cans ascended the “blue and gold” luxury coach and we left the shores of the river Lilly.
As Knutsford departed we partied.
Instantly, a specialist DVD was put on and some of the Brothers surplus apparel was discarded – all before we joined the M6 at 8.20am.
The first session was a trip up to the Cumbrian services station – 3.5 hours in and with over half the cans already, surprisingly, missing we crawled off the coach to be met by a herd of hirsute, heavy, Scottish hen nighters aggressively looking for affection. An ensemble so aesthetically challenged we had two choices; either hide or attempt to make it safely back to our Tour bus unharmed. Breaking through their cordon of love, we sprinted back to our coach – all praying that we would not have to play and scrummage against them in tomorrow’s crucial Tour match.
The bonhomie and tactile bonding increased on the way to The CROSS KEYS in Bigger. A spur-of-the-moment relay sprint across Bigger river was arranged – unbeknown to us the river was generously strewn with broken glass. Sensibly, the game was postponed after all 4 young Brothers were all hospitalised with horrendous cuts to feet and heels. Broken skin but unbroken spirits.
Into Edinburgh and we departed at the 5 star iconic Caledonian Hotel – where the England rugby Team stay – and walked to our nearby hostel slum. I was unsure what was in need of a scrupulous jet washing more – my mattress or the staff? Morale was lifted by play fighting, a mass pile on and Guinness.
The walk to the ground is always a Tour highlight, as the Brotherhood set off being led by our guiding light mascot – Kutty the Lion – and competently marshalled by our hilarious H and S officer. As the Brothers sang, danced and made merry – photos were taken, attractive WPCs were serenaded en masse , fellow supporters cheered, joined in, linked arms, hugged and mementoes and phone numbers were swapped (with single Brothers only). In front of 76,000 spectators, all the Brothers thrived on being the main entertainment and centre of attention. So many people but so much fun in a happy, safe fun-loving environment. Sensational!!!
After the match, which one Team apparently won, we samba’d, sang and serenaded our way back into Edinburgh. Various pubs and clubs were frequented but as we had an important match, kicking off at 10.30am, most of the Brothers had finished drinking by 7am – a mere 24 hours after their first.
Mickey, the Brothers coach driver, picked up a dishevelled rabble of zombies at 9am – surprisingly, only a couple had gone missing in action,
Our opposition, fresh from winning the recent Scottish National 10s competition, were young, fit, fervent, well drilled, rested and sober. We shuffled on to the pitch with a unique Team talk of “Brothers, try and keep it below 50 points!”
To us or them, I wondered?
The game kicked off and we managed to hold them out, for the first minute or two. Lining up for their conversion – Gilston Churchill gave a rousing war cry which inspired one and all. From barely being able to see, speak or move we revived ourselves – flying into tackles, running our angles, winning some ball we took the game to them. Makka G’s hot feet danced around the opposition, Adam O’Gara controlled the game majestically at 10, Nick Barnes-Lomu clattered into his opposition winger, stole the ball and then gained huge yardage, JP Dellagio and Ed McCaw won the 50/50s, and the pack played with fire, verve and panache.
Unbelievable, Chabear intercepted and his dark flowing looks flew down the wing and scored to set up an easy conversion. We led!!! Unprecedented in 5 years of Touring matches!! What do we do know? We decided to continue to entertain the spectator – An outrageous dummy by Piggy was then easily surpassed by the flamboyant show boating skills of our dashing, chestnut-auburn haired No 8. The crowd went wild – even his dog wagged his tail.
Post-match festivities were held in traditional style, and we stumbled back on to coach. Heading back, we discarded the tops of the spirits which made ours soar to new heights. Onr short stop, for a cross lake swim challenge, and we were back to Knutsford. Apart from the cans, we had all made it home.
The CROSS KEYS Court adversary proceedings were conducted professionally. The case was handled expertly by both the prosecution and defence – if a tad incoherent. The defendant was found guilty on a unanimous decision. An insanity plea was thrown out and no appeal was approved – punishment was swift and severe but at least he drank his sentence quickly and somehow kept it down.
A curry for the Brothers was devoured enthusiastically followed by dance floor activities which were wholehearted and always interesting.
30 hours, 452 miles, 1 night, 2 matches, 34 life long Brothers, 1 or 2 plus beverages, unlimited joyful memories – I am honoured and proud to be associated with such a wonderful Club and Town filled with such very special people.
Until Paris ‘10, Vive Le Tour!!. Frere Rouge
*Unless published on Knutford Times.com
Huge thanks for Tour support goes to the following;
VIA VIA – superb generous hosts
THE CROSS KEYS for providing pre and post Tour training facilities.
The fine people of Edinburgh and Knutsford
Harriot Watts RFC 1st XV 08/09 Season
Biggar General’s – A and E department.
Entertainment and life long spectacular memories supplied by ALL the BROTHERS