I knew this trip would be all fun & games when Vietnam Air cancelled our flight forcing us to rebook with Lufthansa. Luckily, this only put us back by a couple of hours. Once aboard personalities began to shine. Rabbit tried to initiate a bomb scare by leaving his bag in the aisle about 20m away from his seat (fine=20,000 Dong), and Roger began sparring with the enemy, obviously bringing back those halcyon days of summer 1944, and getting the rest of us scalded by Helga for bringing contraband on-board. Helga walked away in disgust muttering under her breath "Dieser mann ist lächerlich!".
Luckily, the bus was waiting for us at the airport, and we were soon on the way to the hotel amongst a sea of mopeds. We arranged to dump our luggage and meet 10 minutes later in the foyer. Rabbit was late (fine=20,000 Dong), but we were soon away for an evening of good food, fine wines and sophisticated conversation.
Saturday was the day of the big game. Some of us managed breakfast and some didn’t. Rabbit went shopping (fine=20,000 Dong), but we all managed to get ourselves together and we were soon at the field where dreams are fulfilled, battles are fought and some really dodgy rugby is played.
Steve Caust is now in the Guinness Book of Records for the quickest injury ever in the history of sport, managing an amazing 0.0003 seconds before going down in pain. Peter ‘Sven’ Johansson soon followed and we were running out of players, even though the Saigon Geckos lent us 3 or 4 really good guys (for Frenchies!). But nothing stops the Bangers and we were soon a try to the good. The Geckos obviously thought they should start putting some effort into it and promptly scored straight from the restart, due in part, to me partaking in a little ‘ball watching’. I also watched them run straight past me and my team mates and continued to watch them score a rather easy try.
Our boys were putting together some nice rugby. We were good in the line-outs with Jake the Snake out jumping the Geckos and we were defending hard; Kevin in particular jumping on anything that moved in a Gecko’s shirt. He was to receive a rather nice bump on the head for his efforts, and was never quite the same afterwards. He started speaking Japanese and getting comatose after only two beers (well he is a Yank, so I guess that’s not so unusual). The Gecko’s fitness and youth began to tell and they scored again.
We were very happy when Ref blew up for the end of the first period, but the respite was short lived as we were soon back on. The second period was very tough, especially as Ref was giving the Geckos every restart (except the one that Jake managed to kick about 1 metre), free kicks for me using my silky soccer skills to get the ball from a maul and even trying to get involved in the play himself! The Geckos had managed to stretch their lead a little further by the end of the second period, and the Bangers were finding it difficult to walk, let alone run around (apart from Keith of course).
And it was Keith who decided, in his infinite wisdom, to play another 15 minute period, just to really make sure we earned our beer that evening. Needless to say, we begged another player from the Geckos and crawled back on. After another battering from the Saigon boys we were finally able to crawl back off and enjoy the first beer of many.
Many thanks must go to the Saigon Geckos, Paul, Mark & Cafe Latin for making this a most memorable tour for the Bangers.
More pictures here