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REME Rugby Tour to Texas



OIC and Organiser; Maj Cam Cameron

REME Rugby have enjoyed some superb touring opportunities over the last few years but this year’s location was decided on by the mix of advice from other Corps teams and the search for something different.  To achieve the right mix of culture and rugby played in the true spirit of the game it was decided that the location for the tour would be Texas in the USA.

The sports tour firm, Teamlink were approached to facilitate the finer details and this also provides the ATOL cover if anything were to go wrong with flight, accommodation or transfer bookings.

The squad got together on Thu 24 May at 1400 so the tour administration and detail confirmation could be completed. Tour ‘stash’ was issued, fitness test completed, passports checked and a team photo taken. When going on tour with 30 Corps rugby players it is hugely important to ensure the professional image and conduct is of the highest standard throughout and the ‘stash’ issued ensured that the Corps and team image was exceptional. This instils a team ethos and Corps pride from the outset of the tour.

The coach to Heathrow arrived at 0430 and all members were accounted for apart from SSgt Rob Wade who decided that he would rather sleep a bit longer and then get the coach to pick him up from his front door! Every other aspect of the journey to our first hotel in San Antonio went extremely well and even the Fijian members got in to the USA with ease on a NATO Travel Order.

San Antonio was exceptional and as we arrived in the City for the USA Memorial weekend the presence of a British military team was hugely well received.  As we were in San Antonio it was the perfect opportunity for us to been given a battlefield tour of the Alamo, which proved to be both interesting and a man test due to the heat.

Our first match was on the Sun 27 May so prep time was limited but the squad worked hard and there was a very positive ‘buzz’ among all the players. The first fixtures saw the squad play and support each other against hugely passionate opposition who unfortunately lacked overall skills levels. Both teams won in style; second team won 50 0 and the first team won 82 0.  Lt Rob Hughes and WO2 Steve Drawbridge gave there all and apart from the expected knock ons’ were a superb example to the younger lads.

The after match BBQ was excellent and the interaction of both squads was in true rugby style and this carried on late in to the evening. The after-match attire was selected by the squad and Kilts were decided on as something different and they proved a fantastic option. The local team were playing Baseball whilst we were in San Antonio and as it is a huge sport in America we had organised tickets for the game. The squad found the pace of the game very slow and they go on for up to 5 hours, which would
have been torture if Sgt Tom Wong and Cpl Ceri Cummings had not been found guilty of wrong doings earlier and were given tasks to complete whilst wearing the ‘Rat’ and ‘Cow’ outfits.

The tour then moved to Austin, which is the home of the Austin ‘Blacks’ RFC who made it in to the top eight teams in the USA this year so this was going to be harder opposition. We were staying in the very up market Sheraton Hotel and the location offered us easy access to the social district of Austin that is full of some fantastic live music venues.

Training went well the day before so preparation was going in the right direction until a very unhealthy stomach bug hit the squad. We should have been sponsored by Imodium for the next 3 or 4 days as there was a serious amount of it consumed. The squad refused to let it slow the tour pace down and so the fixtures against the Austin teams were met with the usual focus and energy. The ‘old and still developing’ team continued their success with a 48 0 victory over a really strong but slow opposition. Stand out performances from Cfn Ollie Forbes and LCpl Tom Foley made the opposition a little more wary of their opposition in the main fixture.

The match against the ‘Blacks’ started with a surge from the home side, who were a heavy set of players and they used quick clean rucking to let their backs take the first blood. They continued with this game plan and put some good pressure on the REME but it wasn’t long before the touring team got in to their stride and Cpl Tim Tamani and LCpl Zee Zashiri were cutting into the opposition defences with ease. The match was fast and hard with both teams giving everything but
it was the faster and more skilled REME side that built up their flow of play and the last 20 minutes was an outstanding display of confident, fast and open rugby.

The after match socialising took us to down town Austin and a live music bar that led to a particularly eventful night with some lessons in riding a bicycle being given to Cpl Casey Shaw by the local police.

The next day the team relaxed by trying out the local activity of ‘tubing’, which basically involves sitting in a tyre inner tube on a river whilst towing a floating cool box full of beer. I can see the attraction of this but as we picked the coldest day they had had in weeks a number of the party turned pale blue and the quote from WO2 Steve Drawbridge was ‘never again’!

Departure time from Austin was upon us and as with any activity involving 30 rugby playing soldiers and with all the best planning ‘there is always one’ that will let the rest down. Cfn Jamie Laing was our man and the lesson he learned was that in Texas when a police officer tells you to stop he means stand completely still now!! Let us just say a Taser was involved and a certain amount of cooling off time.

Our last group activity was planned for on the route to Galveston and it was a visit to Houston Space Centre, which proved to be of limited interest to a group of British military and one we would not recommend unless you were a space age fanatic.

The final location of the tour was Galveston and the final match was against a club called the Bay Area. Our accommodation was excellent and right on the harbour side with easy access to the town centre.

Our final matches against Bay Area were a short coach trip away and as with the majority of the clubs in Texas the changing facilities were pitch side, which added to the fun. The developing squad played first and this was to be their toughest opposition as they managed to score 17 points but the speed and skill level from the mix of youth and maturity gave a final score of 48 to 17 for the REME. Maj Cam Cameron and Capt Ted Heath survived the temperatures and set a fine example to the younger generation and Capt Ted Heath’s survival of the most high impact hits on tour is well worthy of note.

The final tour fixture looked like it was going to be a tough contest in the early exchanges but not for long as the Fijian element appeared to relishing playing in the hard, dusty and hot environment and put on a spectacular display. Cpl Tim Tamani and LCpl Koms Komisavi led from the front and when the added presence Cpl Jacko Jackson and Cpl Mags Maragon it quickly became a one sided event. The opposition were hugely complimentary after the matches and it was all played in a tough but fair style.

The after match event was something special and the team hosted us in a Texas club called ‘Big Texas’, which was a mix of modern and country & western music. This was the best after match function of the tour and we were superbly hosted by the opposition. The touring party quickly took to the line dancing theme although a few locals may disagree that that was what they were doing. Cpl Col Mackenzie proved to be a bit of a natural in the area! The coach trip home
must have been very memorable for the poor driver and for his specialist entertainment LCpl Chris Mundy deserves a special mention.

The last day on tour was as always a panic buying affair for ‘tack’ especially by the married members who were clearly guilty for spending so much money! The final event, as with all rugby tours, is the court, which highlights the more special misadventures that have taken place on tour. These cannot openly be disclosed as ‘what goes on tour stays on tour’ but without mentioning names cases dealt with involved; repeated lateness, failure to comply with detail, a special show of male bonding (Team Bieber), grass cutting, bicycle lessons and a number of other incidents beyond mention. The restaurant staff will be scarred for life after insisting on remaining present throughout.

Our chosen dress for the evening was ‘Austrian Maids’ and as always this went down a storm with numerous photos being requested by the local community including the police.

As with all things that are good they must come to an end and as everyone was running out of money it was definitely the time to leave.  Cfn Jamie Laing decided he like it that much he would just stay a few days longer but that is another story.  Texas was a superb location and experience from both the rugby aspect and the country’s culture, which was so refreshing in many ways but specifically in the way that Americans love their military. Everywhere we went we could not have been more well-received and hosted both at rugby and
socially and America is recommended just to experience that alone.

Thanks goes to everyone who assisted the squad; from the CoC releasing them to attend, wives and partners agreeing to let them attend and for all who assisted with funding and sponsorship.  It is a constant battle to ensure this type of event continues but I can assure you they are worth every minute of effort to achieve the outcomes.

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