|25 Jul 2023|
OURLFC’s quest for international dominance continued this year as the boys touched down in Lodz (pronounced Woodj) to take on the Polish national team. Having arrived at the hotel, a team feed was in order before we headed to the field to work through our shapes and iron out the creases, looking like a well-oiled machine by the end of the session.
We spent the following day exploring the city of Lodz in heavy heat before returning to the hotel to prepare for the first game against the League XIII. Concerns as to whether the heat would give way to stormier weather were proved correct as the deluge commenced on the way to the pitch, leaving a thoroughly soaked OURLFC in the changing room pre-game. Nerves were high after seeing the size of our opposition, with one of the Polish props weighing roughly two and a half times the weight of our winger.
Nevertheless, the nerves were settled with early tries coming to the outside backs as a result of slick hands from the spine. This trend continued and by half-time we had 40 points on the board. A late fightback from a resilient Polish side saw us concede two second half tries, however the full-time score showed a dominant performance from Oxford, 72-10.
Man of the match was New College’s Jack Sander with an incredible six tries. To top it all off we then enjoyed a barbecue and some beers provided by the Polish team with some post-match bonding.
With four days to go before the next match, we had a lot of time to explore the delights that the city of Lodz had to offer, not least the Piwo for 8 zloty (beer for £1.50). This, as some insightful minds may have already imagined, turned out to be a blessing and a curse for certain members of the squad, though the footlong ‘fitness kebabs’ were certainly an effective alcohol sponge.
A midweek kayaking and paintballing expedition celebrating club stalwart Archie Mayes’ 21st birthday took us out of the city and into the wild, which saw next year’s Club President, Ben Hobart demonstrate a worrying lack of nautical knowledge, capsizing his boat halfway down the river. The team returned in the evening to face the kangaroo court, a necessity for maintaining law, order and good behaviour on tour. After all verdicts were received and fines appropriately handed out, we made our way to Lordi’s nightclub, who were slightly surprised to receive twenty young rugby players on a Thursday night.
Disaster was narrowly averted on the day of the match against the Polish 1st team when we found ourselves without a pitch. Thanks to the language skills of Angus Lochrane, as he sweet talked the Poland U20s Union coach into letting us use theirs. With the game back on and sun cream applied in the 30 degree heat we took to the field against a much improved Poland national team.
We encountered strong tackles in defence and hard carries in attack from an invigorated Polish side, and yet again we were reliant on moving the ball out wide in order to break the line and get points on the scoreboard.
Whilst the Polish side were much improved, all remaining cobwebs had been dusted off for OURLFC in game one, and we stepped up the intensity in game two, despite several injuries leaving players out of position. Aggression and bravery in contact helped us to weather the storm of brute strength from the Poles, a notable mention being Archie Mayes, throwing all of his 50kg in the way of a marauding Polish prop double his size, a certain try-saver!
The strong effort continued from the boys, paying off as our fitness showed through (thanks to our notorious Quez sessions from fitness coach Matt Queralt), and this was reflected on the scoreboard, with hat-tricks going to Jack Sander and Milo Wills.
The final score was 58-6 to Oxford, with ten tries and only one conversion missed (taken by Angus Lochrane). It was a fitting send off for last year’s Captain, Dan Haslett, and President, Gus Sandham, who was awarded man of the match with a very strong physical performance.
Many thanks also to our coach, Thomas James, for making the trip out and bringing some invaluable rugby league wisdom with him, and also for putting up with our antics, and thanks to the Polish rugby league community for being excellent hosts.