A Referee's Tale - Kiel Sevens

By Dave Philpott - RNRURS Occasionally being in the right place at the right time presents an opportunity too good to miss! This was the case for Ian Seaton and Dave Philpot at last season’s RN/RAF Inter Service matches held at Burnaby Road. During a break in the action our Chairman, Stew Kilby, commented fellow Navy referee Dickie Underwood intended to take three teams from ARK ROYAL to Kiel Week 7’s on Sat 21 Jun 08 offering the opportunity for a couple of Navy Referees to officiate at the tournament. In unison, Ian and I said we were interested – now the easy part (or so we thought); to finalise the travel arrangements. Owing to ARK ROYAL’s programme and typical Logistics Officer planning (namely Dickie Underwood’s); the ladies team were flying from Heathrow, early afternoon and would be pitching their tents pitchside in daylight. The men’s teams and ourselves would be flying from Stansted to Hamburg on the Friday evening, M25 traffic depending! Thankfully London’s traffic was playing the game and ARK ROYAL successfully negotiated the Dartford Tunnel to arrive with enough time for the first tour refreshment pitstop in Stansted. Arriving in Hamburg at approximately 2230 local, we were met by a military driver and his coach, it took some 90 minutes to get to Kiel Rugby Club, where the men began to pitch tents using the magalite in the mouth technique!! While Ian and I sampled the Rugby tent beverages prior to being taken off to our accommodation in a local sports academy with en-suite facilities!! The following morning was a scorcher, sunny with only a few light clouds in the sky, a high fluid intake was required throughout the day! Ian and I arrived at Kiel Rugby Club for a continental breakfast provided by the club. Raring to go we met the other three officials, two Brits working at British schools and a German, all of who officiated in the German Leagues. At the officials brief, it became clear we were all in for a busy day especially as one of the local officials announced he had a bad back and may struggle to do many games! The tournament consisted of 16 men’s teams and 3 ladies teams, the men’s competition had the Lithuanian National side (preparing for the European 7’s), two British Army sides (complete with Fijians), two teams each from ARK ROYAL and BULWARK and last year’s winners Edinburgh University, with the remainder from German clubs. The tournament was made up of 4 groups of 4 teams, each playing 3 games to determine their final position in the group, the afternoon would then be a series of knockout games to determine the overall positions within the tournament, approximately 50 games took place over the day spread across 3 pitches. The morning games saw some interesting encounters with the Army sides, including at least half a dozen Fijians each, turning on the style; winning each 14 minute game by 50 points plus. Ian and I found no problems communicating with any side, whether this was due to our excellent primary and secondary signals or the teams’ grasp of English is maybe a point for debate! I would suggest it was the former of course!! It soon became apparent we were down to 4 Referees with the some added assistance from Dickie Underwood who had declared himself as a player with ARK ROYAL 1, a coach with ARK ROYAL ladies and a referee when he had a spare 14 minutes!! This meant Ian and I seemed to be very busy throughout the morning doing 3 or 4 consecutive matches on different pitches, thankfully the variation in standard between teams meant we were not pushed hard during every match. With the sun continuing to shine across Kiel, lunch provide a welcome respite and an opportunity to eat a steak sandwich from the BBQ, washed down with plenty of water/fluid! After adding up the results both Army sides had won their groups, BULWARK 1 and KIEL Rugby club had also won their respective groups. The afternoon matches were much more a contest as teams skill levels were similar, Ian and I had our fair share of tight contests including the second position semi final between ARK ROYAL 1 and Lithuania which was the first drawn game at full time. Unfortunately ARK ROYAL began to struggle in the heat, a defensive lapse allowing the Lithuanians to get the golden try. Having received several compliments from the players and other officials, Ian and I were asked to officiate the Group winners semi-finals and run touch for the final. So it was no surprise to either of us when the Final became an all Army affair between Gutersloh and DRC Schwalbe. Expecting a close Final, the match was all about one Fijian from DRC who broke through the Gutersloh line on a few occasions to set up what proved to be the winning tries. At the prize giving Ian and I were given a bag of goodies (various Kiel Week memorabilia) which included a Rugby polo shirt, it was at this point we identified the officials were entitled to a free bar, of which we took full advantage, prior to stepping ashore with the players to sample the fantastic atmosphere of Kiel Week. We returned to the Rugby Club in the early hours just for a final shot of Jagermeister, prior to being driven back to our sports academy; Sunday was recovery day spent with the ARK ROYAL team around the Rugby club before venturing once more into Kiel’s streets. It was not only a fantastic experience for Ian and I, but also for the teams from ARK ROYAL and BULWARK. Both Ian and I were complimented on our officiating and asked if we wanted to go back next year, there are no prizes for guessing we both said an emphatic YES, but we said we would like to bring more Navy Officials with us to which they seemed quite receptive. So here is to Kiel 7’s 2009, you never know the same opportunity may arise for you!!!