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Thursday, 18 September 2014

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Hawcoat head for the Spanish hills

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SPANISH HOLIDAY: The Hawcoat Park Raiders ready for their match against Orihuela, with the Sierra De Orihuela mountains in the background

RUGBY UNION

A GROUP of Hawcoat Park RUFC players enjoyed their maiden venture into Europe when they took on Spanish team Orihuela RFC.

The band of mainly veterans – with some younger players thrown in – were led by Bill White, who was celebrating his 50th birthday, along with fellow Hawcoat Park stalwarts Tony Skelton and Ray Sayle.

An original plan for a weekend away turned into the match against Orihuela, with Steve Thompson being the oldest squad member, at 59, and James Howden the youngest, at 19.

For the tour, the team rebadged themselves as Hawcoat Park Raiders, to make a connection with Barrow.

Acclimatisation training (involving a four-mile cliff-top walk/bar crawl!) set them up for the match, played against the spectacular backdrop of the Sierra de Orihuela Mountains. Playing in temperatures in the high 20s, Hawcoat took the early initiative, Ian Hopkinson and Ray Sayle leading from the front, supported by the evergreen Jim Steele and ex-Barrow RL favourite Mark Fitzgerald, who crashed over for a try from close range.

Hawcoat were technically superior to their hosts, but the extreme heat and the previous day’s indulgences quickly took their toll.

Orihuela were generally younger and quicker and only some excellent positional play by Hawcoat full-back Ian France kept the Spanish team at bay.

A mistake in the Park defence did lead to a break and the Orihulea centre crossed the line.

However, young Danny White came out of nowhere and bundled him over the dead ball line before he could ground.

This strengthened the Hawcoat resolve and an outstanding combination of passing between Danny White and Howden allowed the impressive Matty Sayle to put dad Ray in the clear. Unselfishly, he passed to fellow prop Alan Troughton who touched down to make it 10-0.

The second half saw father and son combination Steve and Chris Thompson enter the fray, as well as Martin Heywood.

Orihuela started to gain the initiative and only determined tackling from Steve Slater and utility man Mike Beach kept the home side from scoring.

On a rare excursion into the Spanish half, Hawcoat called a lineout move which originated in the early 1980s, when Steele drove hard towards the line supported by the considerable bulk of Chris Thompson and the increasingly-distinguished looking Bill White.

The ball was grounded and White dubiously claimed the last try, making the final score 15-0 to the visitors.

The rejoicing Hawcoat team were joined by Spanish players and officials for after-match celebrations in the beautiful surroundings of the Orihuela Central Plaza.

Danny White won the man-of-the-match award, with dad Bill receiving a commemorative plaque as squad captain.

Hawcoat Park also made a donation to El Ninjas’ Mariposa, the favoured charity of the Orihuela club, which helps children with a severe skin condition, that means they cannot even be touched as their skin is so sensitive.

Birthday boy Bill White said of the trip: “This was a truly memorable event and underlines the extended family values which have always existed at Hawcoat Park.

“There were three father and son combinations in the squad as well as the sons of three former players.

“Hawcoat Park have had difficult times in recent years, however events like this, combined with the spirit of fun which exists, will ensure they will be around for some years to come.”

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