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Celtic Challenge 2014

The RFC supplied 6 of the 12 strong Welsh squad for the Celtic Challenge which took place over May Day bank holiday weekend.  The Celtic is safely the most popular and enjoyable international competition of the year and the competition to get into the squad is fiercely contested.  That Caerleon supplied half the players is a real coup for the club.

Wales were the reigning champions and with this in mind we travelled to Fochabers, in the North east of Scotland to do battle.  Fochabers is a beautiful little town on the Spey, and has hosted the Celtic before – they put on a fantastic weekend, feeding, ferrying and entertaining players as well as hosting a great competition.  The piper piped us out on to the piste for the start of play and then – after a “rousing” speech – the Welsh squad got started.  The squad had very mixed fortunes on the first day – ending in second place, 3 wins behind Scotland A.  Sunday morning started badly and at one point Scotland B were threatening to take 2nd place – but whilst we had left ourselves with too much to do Wales rallied to secure 2nd place and Scotland A were deserving winners.

The Player’s Dinner was held at Fochabers Institute, and was a great occasion – helped by the free Bells and made even better by a magician who entertained each table in turn.  The traditional sing song and comedy evening was held back at the Red Lion, with Tansy being the last to leave (helping to set up the breakfast tables for the next morning!).

Caerleon RFC did themselves proud on the piste, and we entertained ourselves no end off the piste too!  Here’s to next year.


Here are the reports from each team…

Wales 1 (Tansy Mayfield):  I played with Ian & Julie Bailey for the second time, and I was the veteran of the Celtic, having played in 7 of the last 9 Challenges – 3 times as Wales 1.   

We earned our stripes on the first day beating all 4 Irish teams as well as Scotland 2 and Scotland 4, dropping just 33 points on the way. 

On Sunday morning we played Scotland 1: there is history between our teams as we have had many epic and close run battles.  This proved to be no exception, and though we lost 11-13 it was great game, well played.  We also lost our 2nd match to Scotland 3, and we didn’t quite get going  - perhaps a hangover from the previous game.  We were undaunted though, and won the next game comfortably.  After dinner the heavens opened and the rain was bouncing knee high.  We were already playing on the rubberiest of the pistes (and that is pretty damn rubbery!), and the rain only served to make it worse – if a boule didn’t bounce it sunk waist deep in the goo!  Scotland 5 were playing strongly in any case, and they adapted well whilst we floundered.  Once we swapped round we had more of a chance, but we’d left it too late and we were spanked 13-3.  Vengeance was foremost in our minds for the last 2 games and we won both to 10 playing less prettily than the day before – but sheer will power got us through.  Inevitably – as its me – we were the last game to finish, ending at 7pm – with 20 minutes to get back to the hotel, scrubbed up and out for the final do!  

We were pleased to be top Welsh team for the second time playing together  - and Paul & I also clinched that honour last time it was at Fochabers.  We missed out on top team overall by 4 points!   At least we beat the winners – Scotland 2! – and it was great finish for Shirley and Lynn (playing with Ricky) who had put so much work into organising the event.



Wales 2 (Barbara Vaughan):  My first Celtic Challenge with two seasoned players Mike Jacques and Dai Cannan from Wenvoe.  The weekend did not start well, losing to Ireland 2, 3-13, never mind plenty of games to go Ireland 1 next, unfortunately although we had a better game we lost 7-13 now on to Ireland 3 surely we could get a win under our belts lost 12-13 a really tight match – one we could have won!  Fed up we went in for a late lunch break with only 10 minutes to eat!!  Came out fighting played Ireland 4 and won 13-0 – was this to be the turning point of our competition? Sadly not the next 2 games were tightly contested against Scotland 3 and 4 losing 9-13 in both games – First day over disappointed with our performance and knew we had to up our game on Sunday.

First game Scotland 2 another tight game lost 10-13, next Scotland 1 even tougher lost 5-13. Next up Scotland 6 yet another tight game lost 10-13.  Although up to this point we had only won one game we were not playing badly as the scores reflect, 5 tight games that could have gone either way.   Last ones in for lunch yet again – came out and started the game against Scotland 7 and the heavens opened up had to stop for a half hour or so until the rain subsided restarted the game and won 13-2 maybe the rain worked in our favour as we went on to beat Scotland 8 in the next game 13-8 – now 3 games under our belt, 1 to go, can we get another win in the final game? Yes we did! Soundly beat Scotland 5, 13-0 dishing out our 2nd fanny of the competition and finishing on a high.  On reflection looking back on our scores there were several games we could have won and finished with over 50% wins for the weekend.

The highlight of the weekend was the Basil and Ian show where Ian showed the rabbit his card so that it would know which card to pick to complete the trick! (How gullible can you get)

I would like to thank my teammates for a great weekend!



Wales 3 (Rich Harris, Alison & Paul Gregory):  Another trip up to the Highlands of Scotland to the land of the loch and the glen but this time for Al, Paul and Rich (and this time supporter Kirsty) it was a trip to the unknown and a first experience of the Celtic Challenge!

Saturday morning and after adjusting to the trampoline style pistes the team won 13-10 against 3 of the Irish sides.   (the world famous sport of tramp-w*nking could have been held here). Then came the usual downfall - lunch and a break. The draw meant we were drawn against Ireland 1, Scotland 2 then Scotland 1 in the afternoon - tough but if we carried on from the morning easily winnable. However, it was not to be - the Irish used their luck (10-13), scots 2 used their home advantage (12-13) and scots 1 used their petanque ability (6-13). We finished the day with 3 wins but it was a question of what could and should have been 5 wins.

Sunday morning came and the aim to improve on day 1. First up Scotland 3, and going 9-1 down things weren't looking good....but digging deep we were able to take it 13-12! Next game after such a tough one we didnt quite get going and went down to a consistent Scotland 4.  Last 4 games were against Scotland B, so targets were made to try and win all 4 to keep Wales in the hunt - but we fell at the first hurdle. Being well beaten by the Chuck McCoche team. Next up was another local team but after the huge downpour we were able to adjust better and again win 13-10! 

A see-saw game against our next opponents saw the game at 10-10 but our coche - a great first boule by Al and the pressure was on...first 5 boules and nothing within 4ft....but a very fortunate last boule took the coche back to hold 5 and leave 12 metre points to try to save the game - it wasn't to be and a loss to 10 again. Last game and a must win to hit 50% for the weekend, but up against a team with 100% record for the day - but we started as we'd began the weekend and won easily 13-3....6 from 12 for the weekend and a great first experience of the Celtic Challenge.  My personal thoughts - the scots run the best raffles!



Wales 4 (Kon Tomczyk):  After arriving and a couple of drinks to relax it was off to the Pistes to practice.  Looking at the pistes they did not appear to look too difficult in fact looked quite easy mainly flat / slightly sloping with a sprinkling of gravel on top of a what I can only call a mud like base, set in woodland and only a stones throw from the river Spey very quiet and tranquil.  It was only when we started to practice that we found out how deceiving these pistes were, for shooters and pointers alike.

You could not afford to be an inch short on shooting as the boule would bounce over the object boule which became very frustrating as the games progressed, it would have to be boule to boule or it would be a miss, I think it highlighted the lack of boule to boule we actually hit at home.  Pointing was an entirely different story, although the piste looked fairly flat when pointing in a squat position you could see that there were a multitude of small humps throughout the length of the piste combined with the softness of the surface meant pointing was not going to be easy either. 

We left the piste with a range of ideas on how to play them if we could not hit boule to boule should we shoot short and let the bounce occur then hit the boule, doing so, what are the chances of the boule hitting a mound and throwing it off course, to high point or roll the ball, again how would this affect the boule on landing.  With all that, it was back to the hotel for refreshment and contemplate the way to play the next day.

We arrived at the piste on Saturday morning in fine weather and every team practicing /experimenting with various techniques on how to master the pistes.  We got off to a flying start beating Ireland 4, 13-5 looks like it could be a good day however we were found wanting in the next two games losing 6 –13 to Ireland 3, and 4 – 13 to Ireland 1, went to lunch to reflect on what went wrong decided to put it behind us and come out fighting which we did, winning the next two games 13 –4 against Ireland 2 and 13 – 6 against Scotland 1 this put us in good spirit to win the next game, could we finish the day on 4 wins sadly not we were soundly beaten by Ireland 2 13 – 4.  So not a disaster finishing on 50% and a full days play to come surely we could notch up a further 4 or 5 wins


Sunday again off to a flying start defeating Scotland 4, 13 – 2 and Scotland 2, 13 – 4 then a loss to Scotland 8, 11 - 13 a tight game throughout and one we should have won.  On to the next game against Scotland 5 another tight game but this time in our favour winning 13 – 11 now on 6 wins from 10 with 2 games to go we were feeling confidant that we could finish on a high.  Unfortunately not to be, were beaten in the next game by Scotland 6, 10 – 13 another tight game.  With one game to go we still could achieve over 50% for the competition (7 wins) bring it on.

The last game was against Scotland 7 Robin Gardiner / Anne Gardiner and Marian Macintyre (who I can only say were out for a training session) we shook hands and a comment from Robin to be gentle with them seemed encouraging they won the toss and proceeded to slaughter us under the guidance of Robin who knew every hump and bump on the piste and gave instructions to the ladies who did exactly what he said and kept us under pressure throughout the game and in spite of some great points and shots by us they were relentless in their task and won the game 13 – 7 (never underestimate your opponents ) finished the day on 3 wins . 6 wins from 12 in total.  Highlight of the day being piped on to the piste by a piper in full regalia.

One last thing as chairman of Caerleon RFC Petanque I must congratulate all of the clubs players who made up 50% of the Welsh Squad - Absolutely fantastic well done.



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