So, the Georgian tour for the U17 comes to a close, and unfortunately without the win that the boys and coaches had hoped for. However, the experience was once in a lifetime and a reminder that rugby is not solely about winning.
The final match was a fantastic occasion. Set in the AIA Rugby Arena, home of the Georgian National Team. It is a purpose built complex with 4 pitches and all the facilities a professional rugby team expects to enjoy. It was an honour for Coolmine to get to play in such a stadium. The welcome received when they arrived on the pitch was second to none.
The large crowd was evenly split in support between the two sides enjoyed the spectacle of traditional Georgian dancing before the anthems were played. A moment of high emotion as Coolmine parents sang out Amhran na bhFiann as their sons stood shoulder to shoulder on the pitch. A moment that will not be forgotten by many.
The first half, played in energy sapping mid 20’s went the way of the Georgian side as Coolmine found it difficult to break out from their own half. A 12 -0 lead at half time was probably a fair reflection as the AIA side had created more opportunities. A rally at the start of the second half by Coolmine saw some brilliant execution and precision at the lineout, alongside nicely varied attack and got the team back into the game. Unfortunately as the game progressed the touring side lost some ground as the heat took its toll. However, they fought it out till the end with the final score of 33 -12 to Georgia.
The experience of visiting Georgia has been amazing for the club youths. The country side itself is beautiful but the hospitality and generosity of the people is extraordinary. The U17 are very fortunate to have some Georgian players on the team. Their families were the most amazing hosts during the time in Georgia. Thanks to Shota, the team had the opportunity to tour Tbilisi and enjoy sulphur baths, a unique experience in itself. Zurab helped Coolmine understand more of the history of Georgia as we travelled to Kutaisi where the team passed to the care of Nick who made sure that everything needed was available to them for the final days. The team were also very fortunate to be brought to meet the relatives of Daviti who prepared a feast for them in a beautiful country restaurant after the lads had gone for a swim under a waterfall.
Then followed entertainment of traditional Georgian dance performed by the parents interspersed with generous toasts led by our hosts.
It is very clear that the Georgian people have a wonderful love for family and an immense national pride that they express through their adherence to their unique culture. Long may it continue. This has been the most amazing experience and one that will be treasure.