Lisburn RFC Now Unofficially 63rd in the IRB World Rankings!
After a long year of organisation and fundraising, 24 players and officials met at Lisburn RFC on the 1st May 2010 to begin their Tour to Novi Sad, Serbia. Despite the 3.00am start everyone was on time and in great form and expectation for what was the Clubs first foreign tour for a number of years.
The journey, took us by air to Budapest, Hungary and then on the long coach journey to Novi Sad, passing through the EU border in to Serbia. On arrival we were met by members of the host team Vojvodina, and after dinner and an early night the rugby would start.
The Luka Marin Memorial tournament attracts Rugby Teams from all over the Balkan region all of whom were vying to win the coveted Trophy and the €1000 prize.
Lisburn RFC was to play in the opening game of the Tournament against the host side Vojodina RFC, at the Veternik Stadium. As it turned out the stadium was packed with the local supporters, adding just that little bit more pressure to the guys who were still getting over the long trip from the day before.
As it turned out the Lisburn Teams performance was better than expected and the local side were beaten 41 points to Nil despite their valiant efforts. Try scorers wee Philip Jefferson(Capt.) 2, Stuart Barron 1, Ryan Hill 1, Andrew Jamison 1, Andrew Gibb 1, David Shepherd 1, conversions were kicked by out half Peter Morris 2, and Ryan Hill 1.
The confidence was high in the Lisburn camp, and despite an arduous first game in the 30 degree heat, Lisburn were ready to take on the Serbian National representative team. This the second game, of the day would qualify Lisburn for the Tournament final.
Just for the record Serbia were ranked 64th in the IRB world rankings at the time the tournament was played, so despite the confidence of players , the coaching staff new this would be a big game. In addition the stadium become more crowded as the local support came out to watch their National side, play this unknown Junior Club from Ulster.
In the end the Serbian side were outclassed by the skill and fitness levels of the Lisburn men and those hours on the training field pre tournament paid off, with a result to be proud of, Lisburn winning 36 – 7. TRYS: – S Barron 2, Andrew Jamison 1, Philip Jefferson 1, Ryan Hill 1. CONVERSIONS: – Peter Morris 2, Ryan Hill 1, Sam McCourt 1.PENATIES:- Peter Morris 1.
After the first day of rugby we met up with our hosts at their very own nightclub Orcas’. Surprisingly the full ethos of rugby has reached these distant lands and much merriment and singing took place at their “Clubhouse”, so if you happen to be in Novi Sad and hear anyone singing “The Fields of athenray” you will know who taught them the words.
Fortunately, the next day was a rest day, so the Tour party had a late breakfast followed by paintballing and a tour of the city, and tea in the grounds of the Petrovaradin Fortress, overlooking the Danube. Not surprisingly it was an early night in preparation for the final the following day.
The Luka Marin Tournament final was again held at Veternik Stadium, and was to be against a side from Belgrade, Pobednik Rugby Club. The tour coach had an opportunity of watching this side play early on in the tournament, and despite already beating the Serbian National side, he was under no illusion that this would be an easy game.
Pobednik we later discovered are the dominant side in the Balkans having not lost a game in their history. The match was one of the toughest contests that the Lisburn players have had in recent times, but despite this the superior skills and discipline of the Lisburn squad paid off. Tries were scored by Noel Hooke and Ryan Hill, with superb kicking from Peter Morris. The team again dominated and won 18-13 sealing the competition, Trophy and €1000.00 prize.
After the match we travelled to the Tournament gala dinner and award ceremony, at a nearby venue, where our hosts treated us to lavish local fair and refreshments.
The Tournament Trophy was collected by our Tour Captain Philip Jefferson, and our Chairman Colin Watson who managed to learn Serbian in the three days we were there gave a speech in the local tongue. On top of this our very own veteran star Richard Dawson won the man of the Tournament.
Lisburn had won the tournament and the next day headed back to Budapest for the flight home, not knowing at this stage that events in Iceland were going to hamper the trip. Yes volcanic ash had cancelled all flights in to Dublin, so the tour was extended for another two days, in the historic city of Budapest, and the four star Danubious hotel, the disappointment as you can imagine was overwhelming. However, as we had won the Tournament we found the €1000 prize money of some use, visiting the local sights, and taking in the Café culture.
Eventually, after a week away the Tour party arrived at Lisburn RFC for a fanfare welcome.
Lisburn Rugby Club would like to thank the following Tour Sponsors, Lighstep, NI Body Guard Surveillance and Survival Service, Daltons, and Radius Architectural Roofing, In addition we would like to thank Gavyn at Selective Travel Management for looking after us on our extended stay in Budapest.