The going got tough for the King's School's all-conquering rugby squad on their once in a life-time summer tour of New Zealand and Malaysia. The boys in blue were up to the challenge, departing both countries widely regarded as great English sporting ambassadors.
On the back one of the most successful seasons in King's 93-year rugby history during which the squad won The Cheshire Cup and reached the last Eight in the National Cup, they found the passionate Kiwi rugby culture hard to contain.
Matched against regional and older teams, the squad worked wonders to record three wins, one draw and five losses, picking up some hard-earned and enduring lessons during the fantastic two-week trip.
The tour saw some fantastic sightseeing opportunities but none more awesome than the Haka, which, as King's Head of Rugby Giles Hetherington, said, "was spine-tingling, motivational and terrifying in equal measure especially so close up and when personally directed."
In total, 39 young men and six staff took the 10,000 mile flight for what Giles described, "as a frantic fortnight in which we played some fantastic rugby at a very high standard and experienced and embraced countless new things. It was a trip that the boys shall never forget and the memories will be discussed for just as long. The King’s School players were a credit to themselves on the field but, more importantly, off it as well. They return to the challenging school circuit better players and more mature young men. Touring is the best thing about rugby and long shall it continue."
The tour included seven matches against New Zealand clubs and schools and two final matches in Kuala Lumpur. Starting off in Auckland with visits to the All Blacks Experience and the Sky Tower, sandwiched between competitive fixtures versus Counties Manukau and St John’s College that saw a couple of hard-fought victories and the first loss. The teams then headed south to Taupo taking in the amazing Huka Falls and surrounding thermal spas.
There were further fixtures with wins and losses against John Paul College and St Paul’s Collegiate. On to Roturua where the squad were able to experience a traditional Maori village and Hangi meal followed the next day by another adrenalin-fuelled visit down the Skyline and Luge. The next couple of stops entered the verdant and mountainous countryside including Tauranga and Mount Maunganui with games against some mature and physical club sides, including Greeton Marist and Kahkura.
The flight out of Auckland to Kuala Lumpur saw a complete change of culture and scenery with the towering sky-scrapers and hustle of a busy city, all nestled in the Malaysian jungle.
Giles added: "There were incredible sites such as the ancient Batu Caves and the tallest twin-tower structure in the world, the Petronas Towers, but naturally the rugby was still very much topped our priorities and the two final fixtures included a victory and a draw versus University of Defence Malaysia and ARAS Buffalo Rugby Club.”