Edinburgh University Rugby Football Club's (EURFC) 28 strong squad returned from a successful tour of Japan recording four victories from five matches. The success of the tour provides a strong platform from which to propel Edinburgh into next season. After somewhat underperforming this season the tour has certainly rekindled their hunger to succeed in the university leagues and Scottish Hydro Electric National League Division One.
However, as the players poured out into Heathrow Airport there were a few exhausted faces, both from the hectic rugby schedule and the equally hectic socialising.
It was 17 days since the team touched down in Osaka ahead of their first match against the Osaka University of Health and Sports Science and to many it seemed a distant memory.
The beginning of the tour was certainly the business end as the match against Osaka had been presented as the hardest contest. The players had to acclimatise quickly with the first match three days into the tour.
The weather proved to be one of the university’s greatest adversaries as they trained in torrential rain. Another rude awakening was the realisation that the match was to be played on an artificial surface, as would all the matches on tour.
The team were obviously a little flustered by the unfamiliar conditions and the high esteem in which the match was held. After various photo shoots, speeches and national anthems the teams took to the pitch for their first rugby in Japan.
Unfortunately the team conceded a series of early tries with defensive lapses around the breakdown and out wide. It took some individual brilliance from the ever reliable full back Liam Steele to settle the team and get the first points on the board.
Captain and fly half, Jamie Doubleday also led his team admirably by grabbing a second half try that put his team within reach. It was not to be Edinburgh’s day however, as they failed to recover from the first half deficit.
It was a blow for the party to lose in their opening encounter but without taking anything away from the opposition, it was widely accepted that the better side won on the day. Edinburgh went down 20-33.
From Osaka the University traveled to the nearby city of Kyoto to play their second match against Kyoto University. The hospitality continued to impress and a similar level of hype surrounded the match.
With the fixture or 'Friendship Match’ as it was dubbed by the opposition, being aired on Japanese TV, both teams were out to impress. The Edinburgh side reacted in the best way possible to their opening defeat by clinically seeing off their Japanese counterparts. In the thrilling 52-21 victory, the back row were outstanding with number eight Tom Day collecting the man of the match award.
Vice Captain, Will Butler, who was Captain in the absence of the rested Doubleday collected the “Friendship Cup” on behalf of Edinburgh. The festivities carried on to the early hours.
Edinburgh sought some hard-earned rest and recuperation at their next destination, Kobe. However there was some on-field business to attend to as the team matched up against an invitational side from the Kobe Regatta and Athletic Club.
The match had been treated as a practice fixture however with the scores even after twenty minutes , Edinburgh quickly changed their perspective.
Replacement fly half, Ian McGhee, who had impressed against Kyoto stamped his mark on the match by grabbing a hat-trick of tries and not surprisingly was awarded man of the match. Edinburgh won 61-7.
Another notable occurrence that day was the 21st birthday of Edinburgh University lock, Michael MacDonald. On the back of a victory and numerous birthday celebrations his time at Kobe will definitely not remain in his memory!
From Kobe the team traveled to the capital Tokyo, via bullet train. Of the variety of amusements Tokyo had to offer, the trip to the British Embassy was an experience that may very well never be relived by any of the party members.
A few days later there was more rugby to attend to and the hubbub of Tokyo seemed to have distracted the players somewhat, as they found themselves trailing to a spirited Tokyo University at the break.
However, a series of tactical changes drove Edinburgh to yet another victory and they finished the match with a conclusive 49-22 points advantage.
The final fixture of the tour took place in Yokohama against the National Defence Academy. Edinburgh had suffered a few injuries which limited selection but this did not deter a side who were eager to finish on a high.
Edinburgh immediately took a strong hold on the game scoring a string of first half tries. The Defence Academy replied on the stroke of half time after intercepting from another promising Edinburgh attack.
On the back of their chance score, the home side had the majority of possession in the second half but the Edinburgh defence held strong to secure victory. The final score was 31-12, in favour of Edinburgh.
In the after match award ceremony the team democratically decided on their Player of Tour. The honour was bestowed on Ian McGhee who in the absence of a cup was awarded a number of celebratory drinks.
The prestigious “Lad of Tour”was awarded to Michael MacDonald for his off field antics. The final tallies showed that Ian McGhee and John Geddie shared the top number of tries at four apiece and Liam Steele racked up the highest number of points.
The final victory against the National Defence Academy capped off a successful tour for the university side. Club Captain, Kyle Vivian said: "As an exercise in preparing the squad for next season it was extremely useful. All the players worked hard on the pitch and rose to the challenge.
“With the introduction of the new ELVs next season, playing in Japan against fit and expansive teams should set Edinburgh in good stead for the changes.
“From a management perspective we are left with a lot to think about between now and the first game in August and that can only be a good thing.
“Finally we owe a lot to our sponsors without whom the trip would not have been possible. They are: Rhino Rugby, Robert Walters, Itochu Finance (Europe), Navix and The Weir Group."
Tour Fixtures and Results
Osaka University of Health and Sports Science 33-20 Edinburgh University
Kyoto University 21-52 Edinburgh University
Kobe Regatta and Athletic Club 7-61 Edinburgh University
Tokyo University 22-49 Edinburgh University
National Defence Academy 12-31 Edinburgh University
EURFC Tour Squad:
Matt Bennett, Will Butler 1st XV VICE CAPTAIN, Tom Clark, Jamie Clegg, Chris Corry, Findlay Danaher, Tom Day, Jamie Doubleday 1st XV CAPTAIN, John Geddie, Luke Hall-Newman, Adam Howie, Michael Johnson, Jake Kenny, Stephen Knox, Michael MacDonald, Colin McCabe, Ian McGhee, Phil McKenzie, Gareth McGonigle, James Pang, Pete Service, James Shepherd, Liam Steele, Jerry Tsang, Kyle Vivian CLUB CAPTAIN, Andrew Weir, Henry White, Rick Wright