Chicago, Vancouver, Houston and Austin
Taken from the musings of Callum McKie
After weeks, months of preparation and organising from tour management (mainly Jenno), the morning of Thursday 26th April had arrived. As the youngest member on tour, I had heard of many stories of which I was to experience myself, first hand……..I was once told by Mr Richard Nemeth ‘There is no tour like a Lloyds tour’ and how true that quote is.
I arrived at Gatwick airport with mixed feelings apprehensive, nervous, but most of all excited as I was about to embark on yet again, another prestigious Lloyds Rugby tour. I was greeted first of all by Duncan ‘skips’ Hayward with a very warm smile which I originally thought was welcoming, only soon to realise it was more a sympathetic smile as he only knew too well what was in store for me and the fellow tourists. We all arrived on time at the airport looking fresh faced and smart in our Lloyds attire.
After waiting over 2 hours in the customs queue we were finally let into the United States of America eagerly awaiting our first night in Chicago, some not so keen as ‘Gin Club’ took its toll on certain members of the squad. We were very kindly invited to the Aon centre to a function which was hosted on the top floor overlooking Lake Michigan which was a breath-taking view. It was at this point I knew we were now touring…
Now for me the experience of tour was slightly different as I never actually managed to take to the paddock due to a hamstring injury, therefore I was unable to take part in the training session at Lewis University RFC hoping to play in a later fixture, however, the following day Lloyds of London RFC took to the field and played against Chicago Riot at the riot field, who proved to be quite a physical side, which was unexpected – as the opposition had only been together for less than 2 years. They were a very keen and enthusiastic side that had the ability to disrupt typical Lloyds champagne rugby, however the experience and fitness of the boys from London proved to be all too much for the newly set up side and LLRFC won convincingly in the end 47 – 5.
The next leg of trip was Vancouver where we had a training session at the Portside Park to get the legs working again after a hard fought game and in addition to the flight. That evening we were lucky enough to be met with fantastic hospitality from Markel in association with Wallace & Fenwick LLP and Rugby Canada Venue at The Waterfall Building for some light pre match fuel and hydration. Match day and this match was again another step up from the Chicago fixture as VRC President’s XV had been together for quite some time playing at the Brockton Oval, Stanley Park – Vancouver Rowing Club – which had a phenomenal back drop of the Rocky Mountains (To say it was picturesque would be a huge understatement). The game kicked off in the evening against a well drilled Canadian side, which took the ball on hard and fast attacking the midfield at every opportunity only to be met with hard solid defence by Elliot Freer and Smiler, after a long period of no score LLRFC managed to get over the white line a number of times towards the end of the first half, hoping to expand the score line going into the second. Due to a very unfortunate tackle on Skips which ended his tour and Joycey’s ‘Physical Distress’ the VRC XV capitalised and managed to reduce the deficit bringing the score to 32- 20.
The next day we had an extremely early flight to Houston where we were sad to say goodbye to a number of the Talbot boys, who had to comeback due to work commitments. We had a very memorable and sweaty afternoon in the Astros Stadium which had been kindly hosted by Amwins. This gave us a great opportunity to meet a number of clients before we depart to our final destination and final game against the Austin Blacks RFC, who were a team that were almost 100% non-American. I must admit after having our Judicial Review the night before a 4 hour coach trip and what was going to be the hardest game of the tour was not the best decision from tour management, however the LRFC wore the jersey with pride and put on a heroic display in the 90F heat. Learning that the Austin Blacks RFC were in the state cup final the following week we knew they were not to be underestimated, it was a very even game after 20 minutes and were close to scoring a number of early tries but the heat and lack of fit players gave us a huge disadvantage and soon the Austin Blacks RFC showed why they were in the state final. They were very destructive in the breakdown and fought at every ruck, there backs were electric fast and support play at every attack, it was very similar to rugby played in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa……funny that!! The score line was a very flattering 35-15 to AB RFC. A special mention must also go to Edward Jennings who took to the field and showed he ‘still has it’ even if it was only for 2 minutes……It was longer than me.
After a night out in the one and only Austin’s 6th street we departed back to London the very next day thankful that it was a bank holiday weekend, ready to face the dreaded demons.
I survived my first Lloyds Rugby tour, never to tell a soul what really happened.
Callum Mckie aka Billy Essex.