A bottle of port, a broken ankle, concussion, a lost phone and camera, dominos and a tour sponsor missing in action pretty much sums up a whirl wind tour to Ho Chi Minh City. And yes amongst all this there was a game of rugby.

The ten man tour party left Suvarnabhumi around midday on Saturday 28 June for the Saigon HTFU Tour. Boots, mouth guards all packed and a French translation book so we could understand all our French teammates.

Our tour sponsor Pascal kicked off his MIA tour by being late and proceeding to sit in the business class lounge with our Southerners ringer Maximus Decimus Meridius (don’t hate him because he is French, hate him because he is a Banger). Jean (or as Steel decided to call him ‘Wrangler Jeans’) our tour party organizer also turned up late, but in his favour he did have all our tour kit, which he managed to completely cover with his companies logo, Wrangler, sorry, I mean IOTA, logo – its all about branding right.

With four out the ten man tour party French it is not surprising that Steel quiet rightly thought he was in the Tour De France rather than on a rugby trip. He bought a bottle of port after proclaiming it as a performance enhancer because “it opens your airways” – you’d have to be English, from Hull and spent most your life biting a pillow in the Navy to believe that one!

However, after touching down at the HCMC airport Steel some how convinced everyone that it actually worked. So on the way to the game the bottle was passed around for a scull. We had to prize the bottle out of Bai’s hand who took quiet a liking to “opening his airways.” And even Uncle Vaughan was enjoying it, but that’s only because he wasn’t playing. Our opposing player and tour guide Chris got amongst it – quite impressive.

With only nine players the Geckos kindly let us borrow there best seven players, and while getting changed it was decided that we had to finish the port. Talk about drug testing in sport�we were lucky we weren’t breath tested.

It was decided that we would play three 15 minute quarters of ten aside rugby (Does that make any sense??). After hearing that we were all hoping Steel’s theory was true!

With a tight opening ten minutes we broke the deadlock after a great burst down the blind by Josh from halfway, fed it into Steel on the 22. He did one of his trade-mark off loads and after the ball was fed into the middle of the field we were under the posts and 7-0 up before the injuries kicked in. First it was Josh who got face planted over the sideline but managed to get up and wipe the dirt off. Minutes later he was back on another dart down the blind with an open try line in front of him but one of the Geckos managed to collar him from behind. After landing on his head Josh was so concussed that he thought he was a Coke factory worker. Off to the hospital for Josh, with a sore head, no memory of the game and a CAT scan.

Next down was the big pom Steel, who decided to chip and chase for himself (should have passed it Steely). Regaining and looking like he could score, Steel got taken down by a Japanese guy on a Kamikaze mission who dove at his ankle. Going down in a heap, he started screaming like a little girl crying for his mother. I’d hate to see him at war!

So with two star players gone and more and more of our side looking like the Gecko C team little hope was left for a win. Darrel in between breathing for air like he was suffocating managed to keep putting his body on the line. Especially when a 120kg prop wound up and headed straight for the Scotsmen – I think he decided it was more effort to get out of the way so Darrel threw himself at the guy (something Wagga and his Spider would have been proud of). Let’s just say Darrel got steam rolled but too his credit somehow – I think through praying, he managed to stop him.

With a lot of backs out of the game Laurent, Jean and Max tirelessly trucked up the ball while Bai smashed everything insight and showed some silky skills when moving to first five even if he had a second five outside him who kept on tucking and running (I won’t name names).

Game over and the tour was about to really kick off. After sinking a few beers with the Geckos, who were a great bunch of guys, we were on the bus to our seven star hovel, sorry hotel. Then the biggest hit of the day actually went to our bus driver who managed to skittle one of the thousand motor-bikers in our path. We’re sure he was fine.

From the hotel we were off to the after match function organized by the Geckos. Although when we got there it was first things first – the fines session. Fines master was Steel who was limping around like a poof with his bandage on. The French boys were fined – for just being French and everyone else all copped a few as well. Maximus got to wear Jeans girlfriend’s (which one you ask) aqua coloured hot pants for the evening after wearing white shorts in the game. Kylie Minogue look alike for sure – the boys took great entertainment in smacking his ass while half the Geckos thought he was gay and the other half just shrugged and put it down to him being French.

At a bar with two hours of free piss was always going to carnage especially when the designated beer bitch was a Maori with an eye for free sh:t. All the boys were kept well stocked up, starting with beer and then moving to the rum – obviously all down hill from the rum. Steel was incapacitated and confined to the bar trying to get Geckos hammered which he successfully did to Big Willie, a 140kg South Korean that could barely say his name by the end of the night. With 20 minutes to go on the free piss the boys were on there way – the Frenchies were talking French and well the rest of us were just talking a whole lot of sh:t.

Drinks started to be ordered in rounds of 10, then rounds of 15 and then with one minute to go the bar breaker – a round of 24 drinks were ordered�.needless to say I think happy hour ended up losing money, well done lads!

With a bit of kitty money tucked into Darrel’s pocket we were off to an Aussie bar to get messy. $300 US goes pretty fast when you’re buying rounds of 10 bourbon and coke every five minutes. From there the night gets a bit blurry but there are some bits and pieces some people remember, like Darrel sitting at a bar playing Domino’s with Russians, Steel absolutely hammered deciding he’d go to hospital at 2am and get his ankle x-rayed. His reason for going after a night out was so he could drink on Sunday rather than waste time at the hospital. He lay down on a bed to get it looked at, an hour later he woke up with a cast on his leg. Now that’s tough walking around all night on a broken ankle. HTFU Award goes to Steel.

By the time everyone had woken up around 12pm we did a bit of an audit, Laurent lost his cell phone, I’d lost my fourth camera in six months and we’d lost our French sponsor Pascal. So rather than dwell on it Vaughan called for a Saigon pub crawl. It wasn’t much of a pub crawl because we ended up sitting at the second bar for the rest of the day. By now we were down to Bai, Josh, Steel, Darrel, Vaughan, Maximus and myself. Maximus Decimus Meridius was doing the hard yards for the Frenchies with Pascal still MIA and Jean and Laurent off touching themselves or each other, not sure what or who came first.

Much like the previous night the day started to get a bit hazy – must have been the smoke in the air from all the buses Steel. Beers, then cocktails, followed by red bull and vodka, whisky and sprite – need I say more. Rather than taking in the historic sites we managed to sit by the door of the bar and get approached by every street hawker in HCMC. We filled in the afternoon by buying stupid things off the street. Josh bought enough books for a year – he’ll probably have to get his wife to read them out loud given that the CAT scan couldn’t even find a brain.

But the moment of the day came when Darrel and Maximus showed there true feelings for each other and had a pash. Darrel lost connect four to one of the waitresses who was giving us some quality banter all afternoon. I can’t remember what she had to do if she lost – perhaps it was sit under our table for half an hour and entertain us. Darrel who was always going to lose had to kiss Maximus – I’m still wondering what Max got out of the bet, it was beautiful.

A few of us a bit drunk stumbled onto the plane while Steel got the wheel chair treatment after lying to the airport that he had a cast on because of ligament damage. If it was a break he wasn’t going to fly. A cast for ligament damage – no wonder terrorists get past airport staff�not the sharpest tools in the shed are they.

Anyway if you’ve read down this far you’ve done well. Great tour, well organised so thanks Jean, Pascal and Darrel for all the hard work. For the Southerners that didn’t make it because you were cuddling on the beach with your girlfriends or touching little boys down the back of a dark soi – too bad you missed an awesome trip and you need to Harden The F#&K Up for the next trip.

Over and out. J Lo.
(Winner of the Worlds Best Ass)

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