Wednesday 28th Feb 2024

Old Blues Rugby Football Club – Brazil Tour

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The Old Blues celebrated the conclusion of the 150th Anniversary in style with a landmark tour to Brazil – 51 Old Blues of all ages travelled over the Atlantic to embark on the tour of a lifetime.  The 2-week itinerary included time in Sao Paulo, Ilhabela, Sao Jose and Rio de Janeiro with 5 games of competitive rugby thrown in for good measure.

First stop: Sao Paulo, where the Old Blues were greeted by the soon to be legendary guide (and converted Old Blues ranger), Fernando, who would escort and assist throughout the trip.  The Blues were straight off the flight and into their first training session in the Brazilian heat to prep for the first big match the following day where the Brazilian u23 ‘Cobras’ awaited. Our first match was scheduled on day 2 which saw the Old Blues 1st XV take on the ‘Cobras’ and the 2nd XV in a matchup against the SPAC Vets.  The 1st XV put together what is up there with the best 40 minutes of rugby played by an Old Blues side – every man put his body on the line and played with a ferocious intensity, finishing the first half only trailing by 7 points playing against a side which featured multiple men’s international players.  The superior physicality and the abundance of Cobra subs (11…!) however meant the second half slowly fell away and the Cobras ended the match as convincing winners (65-10).  The 2nd XV then took to the field and both sides started with very expansive rugby in a back forth manner which continued as a theme throughout the match;  the game was close and hard fought but the SPAC vets secured a victory against another excellent Old Blues performance.  Both teams then hosted the Old Blues in post-match BBQ and drinks – with very generous hospitality before leading us into town to continue the party.  Over the next few days, the Old Blues were able to explore the city and enjoy or first team meal at an Argentine Steakhouse before packing up to our next destination….

Next was Ilhabela – a beautiful island off the south coast, which was a complete change-up from Sao Paulo.  No rugby was planned here and so the touring party had the opportunity to explore the island over a few free days – the Blues took part in jeep tours, mountain/jungle hikes, bike rides, jazz festivals, surfing, beach cricket/volleyball and much more in what would be a memorable part of tour.  We also met with the local rugby club (Ilhabela Rugby Club) in their local watering hole to drink and exchange stash – a recurring theme throughout the tour. The 2 days on Ilhabela provided the perfect opportunity to the recharge batteries ahead of the biggest game on tour which awaited in Sao Jose…

Onto Sao Jose dos Campos for a short stay where the Brazil U20’s welcomed us to their high-performance centre.  Another double game day with two big challenges ahead and a strong desire within the squad to get some wins under their belt.  The 1st team battled fiercely in a back and forth game with the Brazil U20 ‘Curumins’ in 30+ degree heat and came out eventual winners of the match by 1 point in what will go down as a famous victory for the Old Blues (33-32).  Brazil showed off their youthful flair which was combatted by the rigorous structure presented by the Old Blues.  The 2nd team had an equally enthralling match against the Vale Barbarian Vets which displayed some fluid and open rugby from both teams.  The Old Blues would come out eventual winners (14-7) in a closely fought battle which concluded a winning day all round for the Old Blues.  Brazil U20’s and the Vale Barbarian Vets were excellent hosts and put on a post-match Brazilian BBQ where stories were shared and kit was swapped with opposition.

The Blues set off early the next morning for their final destination, Rio de Janeiro, which would be home for 5 days to conclude the tour. A 7 hour coach trip was whittled away by the dulcet tones of the tour party as they were led through ‘Coach Karaoke’ by the Tour Bard. Rio was always pitched as being the highlight of tour and the city did not disappoint – our hotel, complete with a rooftop pool and bar, was on the seafront opposite the beautiful Copacabana beach.  Upon arrival Blues were seen flocking to the beach to drink pints (!) of caipirinha and becoming fully immersed in the Brazilian culture.  During the 5 days in Rio there was plenty of time to explore all parts of the magnificent city; through seeing the iconic landmarks of ‘Christ the Redeemer’ and ‘Sugar Loaf Mountain’ to embracing the bustling nightlife which took many forms throughout different neighbourhoods – such as Lapa and Lablonde.  Rio also played host to our final game of tour which was a squad game against Niteroi RFC who were celebrating their own 50th anniversary.  The stage was set for a showdown as the Old Blues looked to sign off with a winning tour and Niteroi desperate to secure a win in front of a large crowd at the Rio Cricket Club – a venue that hadn’t witnessed a rugby game played there for 30 years.  This was a full squad game for the Old Blues and the starting XV lineup was a tour first of Christ’s Hospital old boys across the field.  The game was another close battle as both teams held the lead at different points during the game – Niteroi put in a fantastic performance but the Old Blues came out on top with a last minute try where the forwards executed a perfect lineout routine and driving maul (winning 27-21) – this would conclude the rugby on tour which could now go down as a winning tour in Brazil!  In typical Brazilian fashion, Niteroi hosted us with all you can eat BBQ and unlimited beer as we joined to celebrate our respective clubs landmarks. 

Special thanks must go to John White, Fernando Filet, the tour committee and Keyhole International for organising this 150th tour which will live long in the memory of the Old Blues RFC and those who were fortunate enough to share it. 

 

Results:

Old Blues 1st XV vs Brazil Cobras: 10 – 65 (L)

Old Blues 2nd XV vs SPAC Vets: 17 – 27 (L)

Old Blues 1st XV vs Brazil U20’s: 33 – 32 (W)

Old Blues 2nd XV vs Vale Barbarians Vets: 14 – 7 (W)

Old Blues XV vs Niteroi RFC: 27 – 21 (W)

 

Awards:

Best Player: Lawrence Richmond

Young Player: Jin Samson & Sonny Gasson

Best Tourist: Aleida Montoia Rita

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