Friday evening on Machrins, tent up, pitch immaculate, open-air toilets with the best view in Scotland and new high tech electric shower (car battery, IBC and pallet enclosure)- in fact everything ready for the fourth Colonsay Rugby Festival. Boat comes in, teams ferried to the site, lovely evening and great party, fuelled by the Colonsay Brewery.
Saturday morning another lovely day, the five teams appear gradually out of their tents or b&bs for Gavin’s bacon rolls. Oban arrive by rib with the post protectors- phew! John and Ken, our amazing refs, begin with a captains briefing at 11.45, 10 a side, 10 minutes each way. First game up is Correyvrecken, last year’s runners up, versus Inverleith, strengthened by some Irish ringers. In fact Inverleith is a team transformed with more players than supporters, and average age halved. Correyvrecken win by 33, deadly on the break with a hat trick from seriously quick James Brown. They look good.
Merchiston and Strathendrick up next, Merchiston winning 31-5 but 17-year-old Fionn White playing for Strathendrick shines at number nine. Ochaloch Bears, looking seriously hungover, beat Inverleith but are then trounced by Correyvrecken with James Brown now up to 5 tries and Austin chasing him with 3. Oban’s direct running and aggression catches Merchiston cold but they are surprised by the ferocity of resistance from Strathendrick, before running out winners with a big second half. Ginger runs in 3 tries for Oban to take his total up to 4.
And then on to the semi-finals with some really top class rugby, Correyvrecken beat Merchiston 35-19 in a great open running game with fantastic handling from both sides. Austin adds 2 and James 1 to their personal tally.
Second semi-final is the historic struggle between Oban and Ochalochs, Ginger scores for Oban early on after a great break by Halo. A really hard fought game with no further scores as Ochalochs at last play with real determination but can’t break down the Oban defence.
Before the final, there is a 20-a-side touch game on the pitch for spectators and enthusiasts.
The final is Oban versus Correyvrecken. Oban’s mass defence and commitment are determined to snuff out the threat posed by the Correyvrecken runners. Rich at flyhalf for Correyvrecken trying to get Austin or James into space. After a break for an injury, Correyvrecken are caught napping by Halo who carves through a gap to score under the posts. 7-0 to Oban who then hold out grimly, even after the yellow carding of one player, holding on to the ball and defending well against repeated Correyvrecken attacks. Late in the second half Correyvrecken at last get James Brown into space, he scorches away to touch down under the post. Rich converts, 7 all at full time. Two minutes into sudden death extra time, Oban are penalised ten yards from their line. Correyvrecken spins it left, Eddie crosses unopposed and it’s all over.
Outstanding final enjoyed by a good crowd in the sunshine, with much knowledgeable comment added from the Inverleith supporters club (“run straight you pillock” etc).
Fionn, the youngest player there, gets man of the tournament; James Brown gets the Golden Boot with 8 tries.
The theme for the ceilidh is “Under the Sea”- and after some well earned partying in their teams, the sea creatures emerge from their tents and start to drift over to the main tent and the music. A significantly bustier Pamela Anderson is there reprising Baywatch; John the ref is straight out of a slaughterhouse/horror movie as Shark Attack with his wife Sheila as a very elegant jelly fish; there is a huge lobster- too drunk to speak but he looks great; a startlingly green Irish jellyfish, a man with a bottle strapped to his head (message in a bottle); a very fetching penguin; Poseidon complete with a garden rake (pitchfork deemed too dangerous); finding Nemo; flotsam and jetsam draped in rubbish; the Middleton girls in nets; and finally as the sun set over the beach 20 near naked men (19 figure hugging speedos and one pair of baggy grey boxers) roped together walked into the tent- a rope of mussels (muscles- geddit). Dead silence, Jen the bandleader reduced to incoherence, women young and old averting their gaze, small children sobbing, and then Pamela steps forward and seizing the lead mussel by the hand(?) trips into a Strip the Willow, and the party begins.
A fantastic night, with sea creatures and locals partying until 5. Jen and the band are perfect, Pede nonchalantly smacks down a revolting creature from the deep with his banjo without missing a beat. A swaying, swirling mob of about 100 dashing a White Sergeant on the pitch- and best of all a Virginia Reel stretching out into the distance.
And later the next morning- the sea creatures are gone, the tents are struck, site cleared (thank you to the Inverleith supporters club- you are stars)- the sheep and the rain are back.