Jesters Rugby Fives Tour to Edinburgh, Jan 18-20th 2019

This year’s tour was one of traditions, many old and hopefully a few new ones made.  We started with our customary Friday lunch at the Cumberland and then got down to the nitty gritty.

A Jesters IV took on Edinburgh University in the usual Durham slot. The encounter ended in a Jesters victory but given that we played alongside and against six current students throughout the tour maybe we’ll be able to make this a six a side fixture next year allowing Edinburgh to squeeze in Messrs Butler and Jourdan.  Meanwhile, at The Academy a Jesters squad led by Andy Passey were taking on all comers in the form of thirty (!) school boys and girls.  Up at Merchiston an intrepid Jesters IV took on their Colts on the newly refurbished courts.  I didn’t make it to Merchiston this year but heard only positive feedback on the work that has been done there and have to say that the pictures do look great.

Six o’clock on Friday usually means the school boys select VI tournament contesting the Akerman Quaich.  Not wanting to disappoint the fans, or Harry, we left this one in the fixture list but at The Academy we also put on a school girl select tournament, superbly run by Louise Mathias, featuring our seven lady Jesters and nine school girls.  The brand new viewing gallery made this quite the occasion and something that we hope becomes very much part of tradition.  Doug from Merchiston defended the Akerman Quaich, with some assistance from Laurence Cook.  The girls tournament was won by Colette from Fettes and Louise, who clearly wasn’t that burdened by the task of organising…

Once again Fettes then put on a marvellous curry spread for an alleged 90 Jesters and guests.  It was wonderful to have so many young players and their parents along with staff and match opposition present. All our thanks to Fettes and their staff for looking after us as wonderfully as always.

Normal Friday night traditions were followed and we reassembled around 9am on Saturday for the next round of fixtures.  Up at Merchiston the Wessex club prevailed over both Cambridge University and the Executioners club whilst Fettes and the Academy hosted a four pair RFA vs. Jesters game – it will surprise no one to find out that this was a draw although perhaps there should be an honourable mention to the RFA pairs but no one will really know if that was them or not…  The flagship Saturday morning match is the first of two fixtures with the Caledonian Club out at Loretto.  I’m glad to report that the adult fives in Scotland is in as ruder health as the school fives and the Jesters were on the end of a twenty one point defeat.

We returned to last year’s debutant Saturday pub venue for lunch with the vast majority of the party able to enjoy a leisurely lunch before our 3pm games.  Many thanks to the noble four that instead played the Fettes Colts in what I hear was a festival of Fives – they are already looking forward to your return next year!

Over recent years 3pm on Saturday has given rise to one of the great grudge matches and this year was no exception, the Old Blues of Christ’s Hospital were once again taking on Bradfield in a classic quantity over quality clash.  It was perhaps hard to tell from the players post-match but my understanding is that the cream did indeed rise to the top with Bradfield reclaiming the Sinton-Matthews cup taking a 2-1 lead in the series.  Saturday afternoon at Merchiston saw some tightly contested games against their school boys.  Marvellous fives was played all times, in the case of their first four winning fives, with the Jesters succumbing – well played to the boys!

At Fettes we played what sounds like a most enjoyable match with their girls eight and then took on a mixed universities side.  This game was neck and neck until the final rotation of fixtures when the Jesters were finally able to pull away – maybe Harry has still got it after all…

The one remaining Saturday fixture saw a rerun of last year’s game against the Accies. Avid readers of this column may recall that last year we lost by a single point.  In a neck and neck tussle between the Jester’s second and third pairs and all three Accie pairs (the less said about the failed Jesters first pairing the better – too soon after the Sinton-Matthews for a reunion perhaps) left the fixture finely balanced and the janitor keen to lock up and go home.  Fortunately for him, and perhaps our court access on Sunday, the Accies second pair turned around a 13-11 deficit to win 16-14 giving the Accies an unassailable 20 point lead with only one game to 15 remaining.  We called it a day and another victory to the home side.  In, now time honoured, tradition we acquired a trophy for this relentlessly frustrating fixture that we will one day win – Gareth Price my brother found, and bought, the tea pot in an Edinburgh antiques shop, I can only apologise for losing and having to leave it in Scotland!

As usual the party decended upon L’Petit Folie for our Saturday dinner.  Virginie’s team looked after us wonderfully, the company was excellent and there were some speeches. 

Sunday’s early risers headed out to Loretto for the second leg of the Caledonian Club fixture. A level of Jesters pride was restored with the previous day’s twenty point losing margin being avenged in a similar fashion.  At the Academy we took on the boys 1st VI followed by the girls 1st VI; at Fettes it was the juniors, Colts and finally first IV. The new Merchiston courts cemented their reputation as a Jester’s Graveyard of Champions with the Merchisonians seeing off our four comfortably.

Another wonderful tour, though I say so myself, thanks as always to Dave, our drivers, hosts and opposition and of course to our tourists both experienced veterans and fresh faced debutants it was a most enjoyable weekend – bring on next year!   A special mention should go to the girls, their Friday evening tournament was by all accounts a resounding success and I’m sure the school girls got far more out of playing them then they ever got from playing the likes of me, lets see if we can continue to grow the numbers towards 50%…

Finally, and as always, a huge thank you to the Jesters Club for their continued financial support of an event that has become an annual highlight of the season, and promises to continue to be so in future.