Shenzhen Teaches South China Teams How to Play Rugby in Macau
An assortment of vagabonds, rogues and scoundrels made their way to the Shekou ferry terminal on Saturday morning. The brave Shenzhen lads were heading to Macau for the annual beach rugby tournament, in what is the most unforgiving and brutal form of rugby. They were set to represent the fine city of Shenzhen and assist in educating all, as to the superiority of its fine citizens.
Shenzhen was valiantly led by Julien Berge, a passionate consumer of pate, assisting him was President and patriarch Darragh Hudson a.k.a. Captain Jack Sparrow. Things didn’t start well for the intrepid lads with transportation hiccups and no one in the team capable of working out who we were to play and when, despite having several PHD’s a few masters degrees and an assortment of captains of industry in the team.
The beauty of rugby is that thinking isn’t a prerequisite and this is where Shenzhen had a real opportunity to excel. The first game was against an ancient foe and the host of the tournament, Macau. Far be it for a humble scribe like myself to suggest that the boys in Macau were expecting to make short work of Shenzhen, though as tournament hosts they definitely weren’t expecting the try scoring trio of Alex Ballantine, Herve Le Prince and Gregoire Mullender to run in five tries to the measly two they could muster. The day started so well for Macau hosting their little rugby tournament, with the beach, bikinis, beer and Shenzhen spoilt everything. Shenzhen’s arrival was like the dark clouds before an approaching storm.
The next game was more of the same, tries by Shenzhen over a Hong Kong team. It doesn’t really matter who they were, what is important is that it was another clinical victory for Shenzhen. Crunching tackles from Thibaut “Tintin” or “Turbo” Julien, Captain Jack Sparrow, Dan “The Man” Beach, Yves Yoseph, Eddie MacCarthy, Vincent Boulbes and Olivier Potavin created relentless pressure which allowed our try scoring trio, to do what they do best.
The next game occurred after a break of two games, this time playing another Hong Kong team, who were lucky enough to have had a five game rest. It would be unfair of me to suggest that our hosts would organize things so that Shenzhen was almost playing back-to-back games, so I will not suggest it; though I must mention that many other people did suggest this. In a game that proved that Shenzheners are human and in which Shenzhen definitely was the best team, the Hong Kong team’s score may have been higher at the end of the game.
The next game was the semi-final with valiant Shenzhen playing their nemesis and as yet undefeated Guangzhou. There have been many broken legs, stitches, and thousands of bruises as a result of previous encounters. This sporting rivalry is up there with the great sporting rivalries of all time. Guangzhou started as they always do with a brutal, spirit crushing try, in the opening seconds of the game. Guangzhou can always be counted on for a brutal physical encounter and this game was more of the same. However, this time was different and Shenzhen drew on the spirit of ancient warriors and repulsed all Guangzhou attacks with bruising counter attacks, Mark “The Viking” Knudsen” hit Guangzhou players so hard their mums back in Guangzhou felt a shiver down their spines. Guangzhou was shell shocked like deer caught in the headlights. Their one other attempt at a try saw Herve, who happens to be built like a large barrel, leapt through the air, flying parallel to the ground for what seemed like five to ten meters, and then sliced an overzealous Guangzhou player in half, inches from the try line with what was the try-saving tackle of the tournament. It would be unfair to say the game against Guangzhou was an easy game, though it would also be unfair to say it was a hard game. Some in the Shenzhen team did comment, “it was similar to walking in the park”.
With that victory there was only one game left for Shenzhen and that was the final against that same Hong Kong team who we were better than but whose score may have been higher at the end of the game and whose name we forget or never really bothered to remember in the first place. Unlike the Shenzhen team, who are all church going lads who spend all their free time on charity work or trying to end world poverty, the Hong Kong team may have been recruiting in front of a prison on work release day. These Hong Kong players really were the kinds of people that only mothers could love, their favorite pastime probably being chasing parked cars.
The game started with both teams throwing everything into this last game, Hong Kong scored and their try was answered by try after try from Gregoire “Superman” Mullender. Gregoire had his blue jersey torn in half by the ruthless Hong Kongers so as he flew through the air to score he did actually appear to be superman as his blue jersey transformed itself into a cape. Fear took hold of the Hong Kongers. The game ended in glorious victory with Superman adding three more tries giving him seven for the tournament and Shenzhen winning with five tries to Hong Kong’s four tries. The Shenzheners threw their hands in the air victoriously. It was then that something strange happened and I am not saying it was untoward though how else can one describe the Hong Kong referee forgetting to count one of Shenzhen’s tries? Essentially, the referee couldn’t count to five, he got stuck on four. All there agreed Maher got two tries; Mullender got three tries making five tries in total, which is one more than the four tries scored by our opponents. The result of this “mistake” by the Hong Kong referee was deciding to continue play with the next try deciding who won. Luck was not with the valiant Shenzhen lads, as the Hong Kong team got the game deciding try and Shenzhen lost the game that they had won five minutes previously.
Shenzhen rugby players, not having very long memories, quickly forgot the indignity they had suffered. The memory faded simultaneously upon hearing the magical carbonated sound of the first post-match can of beer opening. They then proceeded to try and drink all the beer in Macau… and very nearly did.