The East China rugby season returned on a wet and dreary day perfectly suited for running around ‘egg-chasing’. Hosted at the Zhejiang College of Sports in Hangzhou, it saw the return of classic East China teams as well as the welcome introduction of two new teams, Yiwu Mustangs and Changzhou Giants. In total, 10 mens teams and 2 womens teams played it out over a long day of physical and intense rugby.
Our own Hangzhou Harlequins, setting out with old faces and some newbies, started their season with excellent passion and a desire to impress. With a new season containing even more teams, the schedule was incredibly busy, meaning duringeach leg of the league each team would play three matches. The Quin’s first match was with last season’s newcomers, the Shanghai Dolphins, and proved to be a similar game to our friendly match back in April. With an extremely poor start leading to a try by the Dolphins in their third phase, the Harlequins fought back hard leading to our own try after a scramble for the ball near the line. The rest of the match proved bothphysical and competitive, with the rainfall causing problems on a muddy pitch but hard work from our forwards paid off with a try by big Tommy Cookseyin the second half. Final score 10-7. Our second match of the day was against our friendlyrivals, the Nanjing Rockets. With wounds still fresh from the Xiamen plate final (but no one’s bitter), this game was always going to be a fierce one. With great work from our forwards in keeping our defensive line solid and some beautiful footwork from our fancy wingers, the game swayed to our favour.Final score 26-7. Hangzhou’s last game of the day was against the only all-chinese team, Shanghai University of Sports, the most athletic team in the tournament, mainly because they don’t stick around for post-drinks often enough. As the rain kept pouring, fatigue started to show in both teams, showing that discipline would be needed to gain the advantage. Although the Harlequins showed some great tactical plays to take the lead in both halves, fitness became an evident problem and two runaway tries from SUSedged the game. Final score 12-14.
Special mention needs to go to the new Yiwu Mustangs who, as a fellow Zhejiang team, we will always support as part of our rugby family. They themselves have a mix of experienced veterans and wide-eyed beginners so prove to be an exciting team as well as a welcome addition to the Sino league. As a beginner teamnumbers can be difficult, so as the home team we could help by lending a few players to bolster their ranks. As underdogs to the league, they surprised everyone with determination and courage by beating Suzhou (12-10), battling out a great game with Shanghai Dragons second team, Shanghai Green(5-14) and showing their passion in their face of tiredness against a fast, young Changzhou team (12-31).
Many thanks to our sponsors: The College B&Rfor our team dinner on Friday night and amazing burgers, burritos and hotdogs delivered during the tournament; Wade’s Bar & Grill for hosting the huge rugby dinner with associated madness after the tournament as well as accepting our nakedness again;and Oakwood hotel for a greatSunday British lunchalong with the accomodation for ourreferee!