Krakow Rugby Festival 2016
10-12 June 2016 saw the first annual Krakow Rugby Fest take place at Juvenia Rugby Club in Krakow. The event was organised in conjunction with Sports Tours Poland and Juvenia, with teams from the UK (Nottingham University x 2 teams), France (Vieux Crampons), and Poland (Juvenia, Malopolska, and Nowa Huta) competing and partying over three days in what was an action packed weekend of social rugby.
Kraow Rugby Festival opening night
The festivities got under way on the Friday evening, when after checking in at the accommodation, the teams headed to Alternatywy bar in the centre of Krakow. Of course all the lads made the most of the open bar in there as they mixed amongst each other whilst enjoying some live music performed by the excellent local band Box Anima. It was the perfect way to kick off the weekend, with the teams then heading on a pub crawl through Krakow which ended in the early hours of Saturday morning.
The first day of rugby
At around 10am the teams arrived for their warm up, which for the Nottingham University lads consisted of either sleeping or starting the morning with ‘hair of the dog’ as the bar opened which gave the teams access to unlimited beer. The French were at least slightly more professional as they did a couple of stretches before hitting the bar. It was then of course time for the games to begin when after a quick welcome speech from the brilliant compere Mark, the tournament kicked off with an opening game which saw Nottingham University take on local side Nowa Huta. After a slow start due to the previous evening’s activities, it was Nottingham who ran out winners despite a spirited fight from the Nowa Huta lads. It was seemingly a sign of things to come for the university lads.
As the tournament progressed it appeared that the Nottingham sides were the strongest in the competition, as both teams ran out winners of their respective groups. In second place in group A were Nowa Huta who had improved as the tournament went on, with fellow Polish side Malopolska taking the runners up spot in group B ahead of the next day’s knock out games. Despite a spirited showing from our French visitors, Vieux Crampon, they would take on host side Juvenia in the 5th and 6th placed play-off.
With the tournament rugby finished for the day it was time for the guys to sit back and have a beer whilst watching host club Juvenia take on Budowlani Lublin in their play-off game from the Polish league. The winners of this encounter were to gain promotion to the Polish Ekstraliga (the top league in Poland). It was an entertaining game, and cheered on by a large crowd which was of course bolstered by the tournament attendees, Juvenia ran out 27-14 winners to secure their place in next season’s top flight.
With the rugby now finished for the day it was time to head back to the apartments, freshen up and put our glad rags on before heading to the tournament banquet at the prestigious Sukiennice restaurant. Here teams were able to enjoy unlimited beer again with a huge three course meal to help soak it all up. The teams ate and drank late into the night, before the Nottingham lads once again headed into the town in search of more entertainment.
The final day of the Krakow Rugby Festival
Sunday rolled around and despite looking a bit worse for wear after the night before, the lads strapped themselves up and got on with playing some rugby. It was of course time for the semi-finals; with Malopolska taking on Nottingham in the first semi-final. Much like the day before it took the Nottingham players a while to get into their stride, but they eventually won 20-17. Next up it was Nowa Huta v Nottingham’s ‘Boozehounds’. It was an intense match, with the ever improving Howa Huta hanging on for an impressive 19-17 victory. After the two semi-finals it was time for the 5-6th place play off with the French team taking on the hosts Juvenia. Sadly it wasn’t to be for the French who lost, meaning they took home the wooden spoon.
Before the final there was a break for the teams to have a chance to compete in the first of the day’s drinking contests – a three legged beer race. It was the Nowa Huta lads who finished this first; of course hoping this would be a sign of things to come in the upcoming final.
It was then time to get serious for a moment, as the rugby tournament was also being used as a way to raise some money for charity, with the money going to a brave young boy called Marcin who is currently waiting for, amongst other things, a kidney replacement. There was then a further whip round from the Vieux Crampon team to raise some more money, for which we are extremely grateful.
After a break for lunch the rugby commenced with the 3rd and 4th placed playoff between the Boozehounds and Malopolska. Despite a spirited showing the English lads were just too strong for their Polish counterparts and ended up winning 26-17. It was then onto the grand final which was between Nottingham and Nowa Huta. It was a tight game in the first half with little to choose between the sides, and despite a valiant effort from Huta it was Nottingham who emerged victorious. It had been a great effort from Nowa Huta though and they can certainly walk away from this tournament with their heads held high.
The trophies were then presented which saw the champagne flying before it was onto the final contest of the day; the stretcher race. The rules were simple; teams of three (two to carry the stretcher and one to be the patient). The patient lies down on the stretcher, drinks a shot of vodka to start before getting carried to the beer table. Once on the table they must stay in a laying position and drink an entire beer through a funnel. Once they have finished this they are carried back to the finish line. Malopolska were the winners.
With the events now coming to a close it was time for the lads to chill and make the most of the last hour or so of free beer, after they’d all had a few last goes on the slip n slide and done some karaoke with the aid of some helium!
All in all it was a fantastic weekend of rugby and socialising, and we look forward to returning next year even bigger and better. A big thanks goes out to our hosts Juvenia, all of the players involved, as well as the organisers and background staff. A great effort from all!
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