Lifting the trophy for the Canarian League with a 36-19 win over Las Palmas was the latest milestone for Nandu Under 18’s but their journey started two seasons ago with grueling two game weekends in the Catalan League.
The skill, dedication, and spirit of the squad shone through at T3 in La Caleta but even in their finest hour they showed enormous respect to their beaten opponents, forming a guard of honour and clapping them off the field. It’s not just about winning for Nandu, they like to uphold the spirit of sport and set high personal standards. It was a pleasure for me not to endure the theatricals and moaning that blights much of the football I watch – and these youngsters certainly play tough.
My knowledge of Rugby Union is sketchy at best, this was only the second live game I have seen, The strong Welsh accent of coach Jamie Whelan was constantly encouraging his multi national players, one described them as a “Tutti Frutti” team. Las Palmas were a bigger side, they had some very big built players and Nandu included several 14 year old players on their roster. Despite that the home side tore into their opponents and pinned them down for much of the first half while racking up the tries and conversions. Captain Jacob Oakenfold led from the front, the fly half was always on hand to win and convert tries made by Nandu’s fast breaking game. The whole squad looked well drilled at line outs and rucks and everyone played their part in a very entertaining game.
The under 18’s have grown together into a winning unit despite the lack of money at this grass roots level, seeking testing opponents they joined the 10 tem Catalan League last year which meant tight schedules to get two games in on the mainland without cutting into school and college time. The costs for that season were 44,000 euros, only partly offset by sponsorship and advertising the club committee had to work hard to find. This season they had to give up the Catalan League for the more affordable 4 team Canarian League, the sport is building a stronghold in the islands with Las Palmas joined by El Medano, and CR Mahoh of Fuerteventura.
Around 100 spectators shared the feeling of pride when a late Las Palmas rally was cut short to ensure the trophy. Monster Travel, keen supporters of the club, supplied the winners cup and a trophy for the gallant losers. The champagne flowed, and gave the coach and his staff a refreshing splash, progress is always on the players minds, they now have to train hard for new challenges. On 7 and 8 May they travel to near Alicante (Villasoyosa) to play in a tournament featuring the best under 18’s from across Spain. All this takes money, the club are keen to welcome more sponsors and advertisers, volunteers to help on match days and with admin are always welcome. It’s like a big family at Nandu, the players are a real credit to the club and the sense of pride and sportsmanship instilled into players speaks volumes for the values of the club. If you want to get involved call Paul Oakenfold on 664361058, if you want to catch a game you can keep in touch at Nandu on Facebook. Games are free to watch, they have a quality 2 euro match programme, and they will make yyou feel very welcome.