Italian friends welcomed to Brechin

The Old Becks team.

The Old Becks team.

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Friday, May 29 saw the beginning of a European cultural exchange between two sets of people brought together from a chance meeting at Murrayfield Stadium in 2013 at the Scotland vs Italy Six Nations Championship.

It has led to many lasting friendships and a great deal of fun amongst the fraternity of Golden Oldies Veteran Rugby.

The Italian team actually started arriving in the area on Thursday with an advance party taking in some local fishing on the South Esk, something that was a lifelong ambition of visiting lead man Massimo Paterlini.

The Italian guests instantly got into party mood on Friday night with drinks at Hudsons Bar which is part of the Northern Hotel, which housed the bulk of the Italians for the duration of their stay, which so greatly impressed all staying.

Pageant day in the City formed the day’s entertainment for the guests and Brechin Club members who always support these community events in the town.

The Italians really got into the spirit of the event and not only took part in the club’s wet sponge stall, but took to the field as well.

In a good humoured warm-up to the main reason for the visit, which was a competitive game on the Sunday, the Old Becks played the club’s Pirate members with shrieks of laughter all the way and then a little preview of things to come against The Bruce.

All of the Italians were most impressed by the warm welcome extended to them by the people of Brechin and greatly enjoyed being allowed to take part in the day’s events such as the It’s a Knockout style completion and Belly Dancing display.

Saturday night was taken up by a welcoming party at The Northern with music by local musician Lori-Jane Ferries, which saw the hosts and guests dancing into the wee small hours and was a great way for the guests to meet the families of the players that they had welcomed to Reggio Emilia the year before.

Sunday was game day and the main reason for the visitation taking place and the Italians had brought along a very strong team with two or three ex-professional players in their midst, however they were at the bare 15 and it is thanks to The Bruce’s friends and rivals The Mammoths for sending four players to act as substitutes, along with ex-Pirate player Lee Robertson making up a full squad.

The game was played at Strathmore Rugby Clubs’ Inchmacoble Park which was in fantastic condition and was a fantastic advert for the sport.

The teams were piped onto the field prior to lining up to the Italian and Scottish anthems before kick-off which all added to the event and gave it a truly International feel for the large assembled crowd.

The game itself was a wonderful spectacle for veteran’s rugby and a really good game to play in and watch with flowing play.

The visitors started with all 15 Italian players and soon got into the game with some powerful probing runs from their large forwards being a real handful to slow down.

After the game settled down, The Bruce players started to get themselves organised and an attack which started in the centre of the field saw the ball being run and passed out to the right wing to vice captain Robin Leslie Melville who was tackled near the line, but he kept his composure to pass the ball out to an overlap and Captain Gary Robertson crossed the line to start the scoring for the day.

The Bruce were really on top now and the score was soon added to on the opposite wing with the mercurial Iain Fletcher doing what he always has, bursting through the tackles to score.

The second half was very different with a few changes in personnel for the Bruce team and the Italians using their power and speedy backs to great effect with veteran outside centre Mario Cocconcelli closing the gap.

Whilst the game continued to flow back and forth it was evident that the Italians were coming out on top.

A long run down the left wing saw the ball being passed back inside to 15 year old Lee Robertson who managed to collect the ball and get over the line to tie the game just before the end of the main game.

The game ended with two tries apiece but was then continued as a mixed game in a third session with some players from both teams swapping shirts and having a social game to make sure everyone got a good run out and a chance to take part in a great occasion for Veteran’s Rugby.

To give the guests a little touch of Scotland’s heritage and tradition, there was a player’s meal following the match with the theme being a traditional Burns Supper. The club are very thankful to Bruce main sponsor Bruce Brymer Butchers for donating the haggis for the meal which was enjoyed by all of the visitors and players alike.

The sight of the toasts and speeches was avidly recorded by most of the guests who, despite struggling with the Scots accents, appeared to thoroughly enjoy the event.

The traditional awards for man of the match went to Mike Bruce in his first start for The Bruce and Elisi Jgor of The Old Becks with both awards being very well merited.

After the formalities The Strathmore club was the venue for a night of music and dancing with Forfar band Ganked taking to the stage and they went down a storm with all that attended.

On Monday the Italians were treated to a small local tour to see some of the local countryside with a visit to Fettercairn Distillery and to Brechin Castle, both attractions being enjoyed by the visitors, especially the shop at the distillery,

Lunch was held at The Stables Lounge and the Italians really enjoyed the locally produced cuisine. To mark the end of tour there was a leaving party held at the Nova Lounge with local musicians Eddie McNaughton and Ian Moffat putting on a fine display in what was an emotional farewell to wonderful friends.

Although back in Italy it is not the end of the local association with The Reggio Emilia team, it is hoped that early next year three local boys, Lee Robertson, Josh Sharpe and Kyle Healy will be travelling with Mackie Academy’s U16 team to play a couple of games against the Reggio U16s.

With The Bruce hosting the 2016 Scottish Golden Oldies Festival the Old Becks are hopefully going to manage another trip to Scotland to play as the host’s guest foreign team.

The Bruce team can’t thank the local community and businesses enough for all their help and assistance over the run up to and the duration of visit with help from Bruce Brymer Butchers, J. Mitchell & Son, The Northern Hotel, Angus Council, The Stables, The Nova Lounge and Glenesk Travel to name but a few.