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Going Dutch: team spirit and good rugby abound on expanded Holland tour

A 46-strong group of rugby players developed their skills and bonded as teams on a spring tour to Holland.

The short tour, resumed after a two-year break because of the pandemic, was previously open to Year 9, but this year was opened to Year 10 as well, attracting 23 players from each year group.

The trip over the Easter break began with a very long journey from Barnet to Amsterdam, via Caen – with the crossing to France impacted by the P&O Ferries chaos. After successful matches at Rugby Club Eemland in the city of Amersfoort, 32 miles from Amsterdam, the party made the short journey west to take part in the Hilversum Festival – one of the largest and most well-established youth rugby tournaments in Europe.

Head of Rugby James Clarke, who organised the trip, said: “The tour provided a brilliant environment in which our boys were able to develop their skills and enjoy the camaraderie and team spirit that being part of a touring party fosters. It was great to be able to resume this tour after two years and for the experience to be extended to both Years 9 and 10.”

“Both age groups played RC Eemland teams on the Saturday. We won both matches and were hosted brilliantly by the club afterwards,” said Mr Clarke.

The boys then went bowling in the evening. The trip also included a visit to the stadium of Amsterdam’s mighty AFC Ajax.

“At Hilversum the next day, the boys thoroughly enjoyed the tournament, played some really good rugby, and were a real credit to the School.”

The U15s (Year 10) drew four matches and lost one: they were, said Mr Clarke, unlucky not to secure any victories in the tournament, which was run in a round-robin format.

By contrast, the U14s from Year 9 enjoyed considerable success on the pitch and came second in their age group in the tournament after winning four of their matches and losing only one.

The final night, before the trip home on Easter Monday, saw the presentation of tour awards. Ubaidah Rahman was named player of the tour among the U14s, with Theo Moses taking the prize for the U15s.

The tour was a swansong for PE teacher Oliver O’Gorman, “a great member of the PE department since 2018”, Mr Clarke added. Mr O’Gorman has taken up a new post with international IT security company Fortinet.


Tourists’ triple triumphs in Dutch rugby festival

Year 9 boys enjoyed a successful trip to Amsterdam for one of Europe’s largest youth rugby tournaments, where they took on club sides from the UK and the Netherlands alike.

The 24-strong QE squad won three of their four matches in the U14 category of the 20th annual Hilversum International Youth Rugby Festival.

QE’s Director of Sport Jonathan Hart said: “It is great to support this ever-growing tournament; the boys played extremely well and should be proud of what they achieved in Amsterdam.”

Some 85 teams, with players aged from 7 to 18, played approximately 175 matches during the festival. Hosted by RC Hilversum, it attracts entries from England, South Africa, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Belgium, as well as the Netherlands. Ten teams competed in the U14 competition in which the QE boys were involved.

The QE contingent’s annual tour began this year with a warm-up game against Amstelveense RC, a club from the town of Amstelveen, near Amsterdam, which they won by one try.

“The squad were feeling extremely positive going into the tournament the next day,” said Mr Hart. They played group matches again RC’t Gooi (a club from the Dutch town of Naarden), Beaconsfield RFC, Basingstoke RFC and RC The Dukes (from the town of ‘s-Hertogenbosch).

“On a glorious day with blazing sunshine (a stark contrast to the previous year), the boys played extremely well and worked hard to secure their three wins out of four,” said Mr Hart.

He praised “notable performances” from Danny Adey, Victor Angelov, Muhammad Nayel Huda and Akhil Walia, but added: “The whole squad should be congratulating themselves for the way they conducted themselves on and off the field; it was a pleasure to take them, as they all created a great tour atmosphere.”

‘Spit’ and sulphur, ‘icky’ mud and pizza – stimulating the senses on Geography trip

From enjoying spectacular views near the summit of Mount Etna to learning how to make their own pizzas, QE’s younger pupils sampled Sicily’s best on a Geography tour.

Forty-one boys from Years 7, 8 and 9 took part in the five-day trip led by Geography teacher Helen Davies, who was accompanied by four other members of staff.

After the first evening spent ten-pin bowling, the first full day brought a coach trip to Mount Etna, Europe’s highest active volcano. The guide-led tour included travel, first in a cable car and then in jeeps, to reach a height of 2,900m, where the strong winds brought heavy windchill that was felt even through multiple layers of clothing.

Nivain Goonasekera, of Year 9, said: “Whilst the whole trip was incredible, my favourite part was probably reaching the summit of Mount Etna: we were all taken aback by the photogenic, breath-taking views, which totally compensated for it being -5C!”

After returning to lower altitudes and warmer temperatures, they visited the nearby Alcantara Gorge – a basalt formation created by Mount Etna’s volcanic activity.

On the following day, after getting up at 5:30am, the boys set off for a full-day visit to the Aeolian Islands, a volcanic archipelago visible from Sicily.

A short boat ride took them from Milazzo to Lipari, the largest of the islands, which boasts deep caverns, steep cliffs and attractive views. Then, on the island of Vulcano, the group sampled the mud baths, where a pool of brackish water and mud clay is continuously agitated by sulphurous bubbles, the olfactory effects of which are known to linger, as Nikhil Mark, of Year 7, discovered: “It was a bit ‘icky’, but the mud was warm. We were all stinking like rotten eggs when we got back.”

On day four, the group visited the Straits of Messina and Tindari Lakes, where they saw the linguetta di sabbia, a sandbank stretching 1.5km into the Tyrrhenian Sea. “It is an extraordinary sight, for which the correct geographical term is a ‘spit’,” said Miss Davies.

One evening activity popular with the boys was the visit to a restaurant, the Café Sikelia. There they not only learned about the history of the pizza and the different types available, but also had the chance to try their hand at making one themselves, before tucking into a pizza dinner.

On the final day, they headed for the amphitheatre at Taormina, which was built by the Greeks in the third century BC and expanded by the Romans. Robert Hyland, Head of English, was able to give the boys plenty of information about the history of the amphitheatre.