16 months ago, Macclesfield Blues RUFC Forwards, team mates and friends Mike Finnemore & Ben Jones, left the UK shores taking fresh work opportunities in Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and Toronto, Ontario, Canada respectively. Both had previously played against each other as juniors, and later together as adults for Club and Cheshire County, travelling the length and breadth of the UK on National 1 and National 2 RFU Championship & Regional competition campaigns.

Canada is not only a welcoming, beautiful, friendly diverse country in its own rite, but holds an intense, passionate rugby following. This is impeded by two of mother nature’s pre-determined barriers that simply don’t exist in the UK; Firstly, A much shorter playing season due to the fierce Arctic chill, that when descended, far exceeds what we would ever dare call a ‘proper winter’ here in Blighty. Last December’s Toronto City New Year’s Eve celebrations were curtailed when the mercury dropped to minus 30-degrees. Move North and the thermometer keeps on tumbling!…  Secondly; The travelling distances involved, that cause Canada Rugby logistical issues in planning their structured competition fixtures, all of which are now moving toward conclusion just as our UK season commences.

However, Canada’s use of technology to live-stream games for the benefit of supporters, friends and family must be commended, well appreciated by the high number of viewers. The many lengthy return coach journeys from Cheshire close to the Scottish Borders, South London and The West Country, simply can’t be compared to these Canadian team trips !  All in the name of a game !

Outside working hours, It wasn’t long before Mike and Ben were on their sporting journey again back in the ‘Rugby Family’, playing for established clubs. Mike with ‘Castaway Wanderers RFC ’ on the very scenic Victoria Island , British Columbia  and Ben with the legendary Lake Ontario shore based  ‘Balmy Beach RFC’. Both teams routing players into The Canadian National squad, currently under the stewardship of ex-Welsh flanker and ex-Sale RUFC Coach, Kingsley Jones. (And whose son  Dorian , Newport Gwent Dragon’s Fly half, by sheer coincidence briefly played as a junior at Wilmslow RUFC with Ben ) Tenacious ‘Beach’ openside flanker Lucas Rumball, also Captain of the National team, being a product of this performance pathway.

Both Mike and Ben applied their trade with usual vigour amongst many new found ‘team mates and friends’ at Beach and Wanderers. This camaraderie remains unique within our noble sport across the globe. Combat with your own team and with worthy opposition forming mutual respect and friendships. Other sports could learn so much here! so … whilst the lads were in contact over social media, neither disclosed until recent weeks, that they had both been selected for Canadian Regional representation of their home clubs with BC Bears and Ontario Blues.

Never a doubt these lads would do one thing and give it their all! Living a time zone and 3500Km apart, both friends came together once more on Thursday 23/8/18 on opposite sides of the battle lines, at The Canada Rugby Championship semi-final held at the home of The Prairie Woolfpack  RFC  Calgary.  In a somewhat spirited game friendship side-lined as focus was maintained on the team business in hand… Get the ‘W’!

At the ref’s final whistle Ontario Blues reached the CRC final with a 56- 38 win over the BC Bears. All occurring under the trained eye of Kingsley Jones on the touch, and Rumball driving The Blues spirit on the pitch. After the heat of battle had calmed, team debriefs done, camaraderie resumed in the bar over a beer or two in the true spirit Webb Ellis intended.  (Pics Attached , Pre and post game )

On Sunday 26/8/18, Ontario Blues went on to win gold medal spot 22-17 against The Rock RFC from Newfoundland and Labrador, in the National final to seize the Gold medal position,  and receive the the McAteer Cup from Kingsley. BC Bears beat Calgary’s Prairie Wolfpack 48-32  for the Bronze Medal spot.

Two further Cheshire players are also presently working in Saskatoon Saskatchewan, In the Great White North, plying their rugby trade at The Wild Oats RFC, namely Josh Brown (Winnington Park RUFC ) and Jonny  Weir (Caldy RUFC) . Both making the 600Km journey South West to watch the Calgary fixtures and afterward have a beer with friends Mike and Ben. Whilst the guys are over 5500Km from Blighty integrated into the familiar comforts, camaraderie  and competition of their new  home clubs, its nice to know Macc and Cheshire continue to play their part in that representation process… Long may it continue !

Nick Jones