Provins, Ile de France, Rugby Trip 4th – 7th May
Having left late on Friday morning, the race for the ferry began in earnest: 26 students, 5 teachers and one bus driver from Yorkshire (Andy), travelling to catch the ‘The Spirit of Britain’ ferry at 1:55pm. All the boys were packed, present and boisterous as we left Gunnersbury for the Kent Downs and the Strait of Dover. Three hours later we were on the ferry, watching the famous white cliffs recede behind us in glorious sunshine. Soon we had swapped the Kent Downs for the Parc Naturel, the Great War Memorials dotted around Arras, some eerily beautiful wind-turbines whose red beacons pulsed in the darkness, and Mr Brown’s realisation that if any of the boys saw this, it was only in the reflection of their iPhone 8 plus.
Saturday opened at 6am, the boys and teachers (except Dr Smith who ‘forgot’ his trainers), heading out for a light run followed by showers and a Continental breakfast at l'hotel du Marais Romilly-sur-Seine. We left at 9:15am, heading into the mediaeval city of Provins for the tournament’s opening ceremony. Provins was once home to a Champagne fair crucial to the area’s mediaeval economy; now, the town is known for its rose honey, candy and jam, as well as annual festivals like our Rugby tournament. The French have a flair for pageantry: after walking from the Stade Demosthene Bobe into town accompanied by a brass band playing Star-Wars, Ghostbusters, Seven Nation Army and others (many others), the boys were surprised to learn that they were obliged to join the mayor and tournament organisers on the dais in front of the town to sing, chant or mime their team song.
6 teams would compete the following day: 2 teams from France (including a mixed team), one from the Czech Republic and another from Essex - Gunnersbury being the only school team. Once the festivities were over - the boys were off to dinner at a French school in the centre of town before lights out at 10:30pm.
Sunday dawned to more unforeseen good weather, the boys waking to run with Mr McCormick, Mr Bull and Mr Mansfield, breakfast, then a drive to the stadium for the tournament’s beginning in earnest. There were 4 scheduled games of 40 minutes each excluding the final. Although the 1st XV had been decided on the bus the night before, those who didn’t play were drafted into the President of the tournament’s team (or President’s Team): Jan Biegala, Lucas McGivney, Brandon Ramlal and Kwami Bernard-Fitt serving with particular distinction. The 1st XV swept all before them, with exceptional performances from Morgan Poiner, Devon Lee, Jibran Okorefe, Reuben Doherty, Michael Moore-Saxton and the player of the tournament, Alexander Gribbon. Gunnersbury v Mersea Island (Essex) made for an all-Angleterre final, but even the Essex boys couldn’t score a try against Gunnersbury. Gunnersbury lifted the cup, then headed to Buffalo Bills for a well-deserved burger.
After a brief attempt at sleep, we set off at 5am to make the 12pm ferry. Despite a brief hiccup, we boarded ‘The Spirit of Britain’ for the return journey. A 90-minute ferry ride and bus journey later, we arrived at Windmill Rd, unloaded the bags and said our goodbyes. The weather remained unbroken, much like Gunnersbury’s winning streak in Provins.