NATO LIONS IN L’AQUILA MEMOMRIAL TOURNAMENT AND FUND RAISER
The sad events that occurred to L’Aquila due to the earthquake earlier this year are still felt by the region with homeless victims still camping on Abruzzo Rugby club pitch, NATO lions under took two separate events to raise funds in order to help in whatever way they could during the past 4 weeks, culminating in Party in the Paddock all day social. On 24 May 09, on a blisteringly hot Sunday afternoon NATO Lions took part in the Orvieto, L’Aquila Memorial rugby tournament in the region of Umbria, comprising of 3 teams from different Italian regions. The competition was promoted nationally with a youth event in the morning and adults in the afternoon, to raise money for the appeal funds to aid those that lost family members, possessions and houses in the recent devastating earthquake that destroyed a local community and killed several members of the L’Aquila rugby club. After the welcoming ceremony the lions soon took to the field against the hosts with several key Lions players away on National commitments, giving the Head Coach John King (RAF Vets) the opportunity for new players to further develop their rugby skills. During the initial exchanges the Lions controlled the game but could not penetrate a very dogged Orvieto defence, pinning them down in their own 22 for the majority of the half. However one break away try and a quick taken penalty the hosts went into half time 14-0 up. In the second half the lions soon put training ground phases of play together and took the game by the scruff of the neck. Structured play involving forwards and backs soon lead to a try under the posts scored by Mike Conard in only his second match. “V” Vakacegu slotted the conversion to bring the match to a pulsating last 10 minutes. Again the forwards provided the platform with Doc Cox (Navy Sharks Coach) supporting dogged play from Buster Brown and Swampy Riley, powering past the gain line and setting up quick ball for the backs to score under the posts after the Orvieto defence collapsed. Once again “V” Vakacegu slotted the ball through the uprights to draw the match. The last match against Montevirvinio Oriolo Rmano (1970) saw the lions start to play open rugby with “V” Vakacegu continually breaking through the opposition defence and setting the ball for the forwards to take on. What was exceptionally pleasing from the coaches’ perspective was the way in which the new players started to enjoy themselves. Strong performances in the lineout by Phil Casey and BG Ben Pong gave Dave Greninger the ideal platform to release the backs and allow them to put some of the training ground plays into fruition. Old war horse Chris Smith, continuing his breaks from the back of rucks piercing the oppositions defence line time and time again. By the end the game the Lions had won by a commanding 21-7, this was despite playing two games back to back in temperatures in the high 30’s. Head Coach John King commented “it was especially pleasing to see so many of the new players stepping up to the mark in only their second or third rugby games, bringing to the match what the guys have been working hard on at Carney park, especially in such tortuous conditions the guys kept plugging away and stuck to the game plan of stringing together phases of play from breakdowns, line outs and scrums”. By the end of the day the Lions had to concede winning the tournament by points difference, leaving the hosts and organisers of the event taking the top spot. Backs Coach Doc Cox added after a typical Italian post match feast “Its not about winning or losing, it’s about forming friendships with fellow rugby players, united in such a worthy cause.” As the Lions then had to look forward to the 3 hour drive back to Naples and another late night all for the love of the beautiful game! Then last weekend the Party in the Paddock Charity event organised by Back Row forward Rebecca Rodriguez-Metlan and John King (but to name a few), an all day Barbecue, Bouncy castle and live performance by the “Duddy Boys” fronted by scrum half Dave Greninger. An auction was conducted and a vast amount of Bath RFC kit was donated by their 1st team manager Dave Guayan who was visiting, raised a substantial amount for the earthquake appeal. The event was a complete success with music and food going continuing well into the night. All proceeds will be handed to the earthquake fund organisers at the Gaeta Beach rugby tournament to be held on Sunday 05 July.