RUGBY players have returned to school with a strong team ethic and determination to hone their skills after facing tough opposition on a match tour.
Boys from Bede Academy in Blyth met teams from some of the best known independent schools in the north with reputations for excelling at rugby.
Although they were defeated by Barnard Castle and Sedbergh Schools, both of which have produced countless international players, the boys were triumphant against Fylde Under-16s, who boasted England legend Bill Beaumont’s son as captain.
The boys were part of an elite Lions squad comprising the best players from each of the four schools in the Emmanuel Schools Foundation (ESF) – Bede Academy, The King’s Academy, Middlesbrough, Emmanuel College in Gateshead and Trinity Academy, from Thorne, near Doncaster.
Bede student Joshua Ramsey said: “We had never met the other players in our team except a week before the tour in training, but as the tour went on we all got stronger.
“We learned a lot about how each of us plays and by the end we felt like a much better team.”
Team-mate Matthew Richmond added: “Sedbergh were a fantastic team and we really enjoyed playing them, even though we didn’t win.
“They play and compete together as a team all the time and it showed.
“We learned a lot and managed to put some of that into practise when we played Fylde.”
The ESF squad was based in Ambleside in the Lake District for the tour and as well as playing matches they took part in team building sessions that include dragon boating on Ullswater and rock climbing.
Andrew Sutherland, head of rugby at Bede Academy, said: “The boys took on some tough challenges playing against Barnard Castle and Sedbergh and their team spirit was undoubtedly strengthened through this test.
“The tour came to a climax in Fylde and the Lions won this encounter 33-12.
“It was a terrific end to the tour and showed just how far the players had come as a squad and as individuals.
“All three Bede boys represented the academy tremendously and learned a lot from the experience.”