- Victory against The Rock gives Counties last laugh
- Preparation under way for Ontario Blues game on June 8
Tony Simpson keeps us up to date with exclusive coverage of the Counties tour to Canada. With one game down and two to go we find out what the mood is like in the camp ahead of their second match.
Newfoundlander's have been described in a wide variety of ways as people seek to capture the essence of a fairly unique group of island people.
Mostly the assessment focuses on generosity of spirit. Usually their 'directness' gets a mention. Sense of humour invariably comes into the mix. Little wonder then, that Blaydon hooker Matt Hall cut to the chase in incisive fashion when he said: "They’re just like Geordies really. They'e brilliant."
Whether he is as enthusiastic about the climate is another matter. The inaugural stroll from the hotel an hour after arrival in St John's was supposed to be a gentle cobweb remover. Instead it lasted less than 10 minutes because of the icy blasts – and this is June!
The weather gods threw in a couple of half-decent days to tease, but come match night on Friday, thermal hostility was resumed, with driving rain, a swirling wind and another major dip in temperature to numb the digits.
Nor was the weather the only hostile element the Counties players had to endure. The local penchant for acerbic wit was viewed – or more accurately heard – in all its glory, with every is error seized upon with gusto.
It was hard not to feel sympathy for fly half Andre Agassi, aka Ross Winney, who collected a barrage of ribald comments as a couple of penalties flew wide to focus the tirade.
Luckily replacement Will Cliff then captured the spotlight and spared his half-back partner further punishment when his fired his first pass well over Winney’s head into the dead-ball area, a manoeuvre that armed the touchline tormentors to the teeth.
Victory for the Counties, of course, left them with the last laugh, but Cliff has bought up all copy of the match video to save himself further embarrassment.
The first leg of the tour ended very positively...
Happily the first leg of the tour ended very positively on George Street, one of the best known thoroughfares in North America for seekers of fun and frolic.
Word is of 86 bars, restaurants and other houses offering adult entertainment for the discerning viewer, just the place for two teams of players to unit after a no-holds-barred scrap.
As ever on match day, the management fear is of 'Nightmare on George Street', but all were counted back in well before sun up, the only low level activity reported being a trip to Subway for an athletes 'chicken fillet with olives' foot-long.
So now we're bumping along with Air Canada to Toronto, where the temperature is up around 30 degrees Celsius and Ontario Blues are waiting.
Referee Andrew Hall, who did a good job in the game against The Rock, tells us to expect a strong front-row and some slick and speedy backs, which has the Counties coaches licking their lips.
The belief is that the Counties have the capacity to play some classy rugby themselves in the right conditions having proved that they can also dog it out if needs must.
And lasting memories of St John's? The weather; the friendliness of the people; their willingness to help in whatever way they could; and above all, their laid back style as personified by the Mayor, who likes to be known as 'Doc.
He pitched up at our civic reception in a pair of trail boots, jeans, sports coat and open-necked shirt looking as though he had just come from his allotment.
He then delivered a most charming welcome to underline that even on the allotment, there are folk of real class.
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