The crew of the Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose have been immersing themselves in the sporting, and community life of New Orleans as part of the New Orleans 1812 Bicentennial Fleet Week.
Plymouth-based HMS Montrose played rugby against Loyola University as the culmination of the week’s sporting activity. The game at the Pan American Stadium took part under 30 degree heat. Loyola has been running a rugby team for only three years and is managing to convert many American footballers to the sport.
From the outset HMS Montrose had the upper hand as their cohesiveness and slick handling skills forced the ‘Wolves’ onto the back foot It was soon evident that defence and tackling was not a strength for the Americans as their technique was exposed by the Montrose forwards and centres. The visitors quickly began to rack up points and went into half time with a 31-0 lead thanks to five tries, three of which were converted. Devonport shifted gear and ran in another five tries without reply to conclude the game as 62-7 winners.
This was a fitting end for the Montrose team which now sees a significant portion players head to new assignments and individual performances worthy of praise include the front row of Luke Gaffney, Lieutenant Commander (Lt Cdr) Andrew Ainsley and John Brindley dominated their opponents and found themselves supporting attacks from wing to wing; back row performers AB ‘Taff’ Hadley (son of Welsh international Adrian Hadley) and Man of the Match Able Seaman (AB) ‘Zelda’ Bowyer dominated the tackle zone and were first to the breakdown; new half back pairing of captain Petty Officer (PO) ‘Doc’ Finlay and Lt Chris Fox controlled the game; whilst outside backs Engineering Technician (ET) ‘Taff’ Thomas, ET Tulakepa, ET ‘G’ Jeffrey and LPT Lee Jones scythed through the students defence time and time again with effortless ease.
The day finished with some typical New Orleans’ hosting and the Americans being taught the standard post-match ceremony of songs and awards and reciprocating by allowing the sailors to tour the fabled Bourbon Street where many new friends were made.
The countdown to the London Olympics 2012 has begun, so four sailors from HMS Montrose were joined by HM Deputy Consul General Andrew Pryce, as well as fellow sailors from the Canadian ship HMCS St Johns to mark the 100 days remaining to the opening ceremony with a special race. Mr Pryce threw down the gauntlet to see who could cover one hundred metres fastest in order to cross the finish line which took the form of an Olympic flag.
In front of an audience of British and Canadian sailors, as well as passing members of the public, the race had a very close finish, but the Royal Navy’s AB John Maher was victorious, setting a precedent which it is hoped will be repeated many times during the London2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer.
Andrew Pryce gave a valiant performance as he faced the energetic sailors from both the Royal and Canadian Navies. He said: “It was great to see our sailors and their Canadian allies’ Corinthian spirit and camaraderie looking forward to the Olympics as they demonstrated to me their enthusiasm and fitness.“
Basketball players and fans on board HMS Montrose, led by Leading Writer Judson Cupid (a member of the Royal Navy basketball team) attended a professional National Basketball Association game by invitation. Half the crew attended with the promise of a free t-shirt, the opportunity to be courtside whilst the players warmed up and to be included in a post-match team photograph after the game.
Judson said: “The staff at the New Orleans Hornets expressed their delight with the response and guaranteed we would be met at the arena and that someone would be on hand to make sure our experience was one to remember. On the day they fulfilled their promise. It was a wonderful evening of basketball backed with an exciting atmosphere created by the passion of the fans and non stop entertainment. During the game, I took a moment to scan my shipmates’ faces. Some had no idea at all what was happening on the court but were caught up in the atmosphere and having a truly great experience. I knew I had to do something in return for the club in order to say a big thank you.”
In response he arranged for ten players and staff of the Hornets to visit HMS Montrose hosted by the Petty Officer’s Mess after receiving a tour of the ship.
The ship is continuing its deployment and due back to Plymouth later this month.