The 2018 Aberystwyth 7s tournament saw the return of the Pistol Shrimps for a 7th consecutive year. 11 lads in perfect shape (round is a shape) packed their bags and as the mist descended on Aber, the Shrimps came back.
Having formed the team in 2012, this was my 5th Aber 7s and I was looking forward to getting back with the Shrimps, having not seen any of them for 12 months. Some of the regulars weren’t able to make it this year due to other commitments (apparently we’re meant to be responsible adults now) but we still had 3 lads making their Shrimpy debuts this year.
Travelling from Gloucester to Aberystwyth by train is not a quick journey. I left Gloucester just before 11am knowing that I would be back in the bubble about half 3. Luckily after a quick stop at Birmingham New Street – including a frantic run around trying to figure out the new layout to get to my second train – I joined fellow Shrimp Limmer on the Birmingham – Aberystwyth stage of the journey. With 2 Shrimps now together it would be rude not to start drinking and luckily the ever-prepared Limmer had some lagers for us classy blokes to get through. We arrived in Aber to the flat we were renting to find that the Chairman of the Bridge himself, Mike Gledhill had already arrived and filled the treasure chest (fridge) with the nectar of the gods.
The next few hours were spent making a start on the collection of beers while more Shrimps arrived as the afternoon went on, and once the majority of the team were there we went to our sponsors Scholars for our annual pre-tournament dinner, wearing previous years kits and in the case of Meat Bag a banana outfit (for being the dope who almost turned up a week early). As a huge Star Wars fan, the decision to wear old kits out on May 4th (Star Wars Day) was great as it left me wearing my original kit with “Chewbacca” on the back! From Scholars, we could have gone for an early night to prepare for the next day… but instead decided to follow our Shrimpy instincts and began a long tour of half the pubs in town – and there’s a lot of pubs! As any night in Aberystwyth goes, we ended up dancing the night away in Yokos until it closed – not caring at all that we’re about double the age of the freshers – and making our eventual way back to the flat at 5:30am. Personal highlights of the night included a rousing rendition of YMCA in Downies and my helpful attempts at wingmanning for a fellow Shrimp (when it turns out that was the last thing he wanted/needed) and repeated hugs and cries of “Why are we both still out?!” every time I ran into one of the backs for our first opponents, Lingboks in the middle of Yokos.
Whose stupid idea was it to stay out until half 5 when our first match was at 9:40am?! After a measly 2 and a half hours sleep I fell out of bed and made a beeline for the toilet to become the weekend’s first chunder bumder. Feeling very much worse for wear, we dragged ourselves down to Blaendolau playing fields for our opening match, which we lost 14-34 to Lingboks – who went on to top the group.
With the sun out in full force and my skin partial to burning under a full moon, the sun cream was out every 30 minutes and by our next match the team were feeling more alive, helped by the arrival of Seb who had missed the first match having got lost on the night out and slept in the back of his car! No luck catching them Swans then? faced a much-revived Pistol Shrimps and we ran out 17-29 victors in our second match, but we then lost our third match of the day 19-28 to Al-try-eda. To me this match was probably my biggest disappointment of the weekend as we should have had a penalty try on the stroke of halftime as their last man deliberately knocked on what would have been the killer pass to put our captain Ste over in the corner, only for a scrum to be awarded. The automatic 7 points, combined with the 2 minutes he would have spent in the sin bin would have been the turning point in this match.
With results being very up-and-down, we finished Day 1 on a high with a 52-0 win over A bit Pongy and a 14-22 victory against Budgie Smugglers to leave us 3-2 for the day. Our match with A bit Pongy will stick long in my memory as twice I was denied my first ever Shrimps try mere metres from the line.
Back to the flat and the old man in me wanted nothing more than to climb into bed and sleep for a year, but I dragged myself out with the team to watch the Haye v Bellew fight – which I surprised myself by calling a Bellew win. Once that was over, the old man in me won out and I went home to recover ahead of Sunday’s guaranteed 3 matches.
As one of the few Shrimps to get an early night, I was certainly one of the fresher lads on Sunday morning. Luckily we had a slightly later start, but not by much, and after a delay getting through the gates we had about 15 minutes to get our boots on and warm up (if you can call 2 half-hearted stretches and a couple of passes of a ball a warm-up). We saw off Fish and a Rice Cake 29-12 and then completed our group with a 24-5 loss at the hands of Aukland BLBs to finish in 5th place on points difference.
We then had a couple of hours off before our Trophy quarter-final, so I took a chance to go watch a friend’s team Wolfpack Legends – who we have developed a relationship with due to both playing decent standards of rugby and coming back for the rugby (and the sesh) every year and having often played in the same league – win their next couple of matches.
Losing track of time, I almost missed our own match and after finally finding the pitch (as far away from our regular pitch as possible) I turned up for what proved to be our final match: a 0-5 loss to Triglycerides. To say this was not a classic 7s match is an understatement, as I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many scrums in a game before. Lack of sleep and proper stretching between matches took its toll on both teams and the handling ability of pretty much every player and Triglycerides finally got the only score of the game from first phase off a scrum (shock!) with the final play of the game.
From the field, we stopped at a pub on the way back to fill up with as much food as we can, and prepared for the big night out with some drinking games. I don’t know if it has a real name, but it was introduced to us by Andy the year before as the Stacky Cuppy Drinking Game… I now like to call it the Stacky Cuppy Fucky Timmy Uppy Drinking Game as a general lack of motor skills led to me getting absolutely ruined before the night out even began.
When we left the flat, it was off to Harrys for a GAA – can’t have a trip to Aber without one of them! – before returning to Scholars for Kangaroo Court, led this year by The Right “Honourable” Judge Limmer. I wish I could tell you some fun stories from this and from the night after, but I’ll be honest I was such a state I don’t really remember anything and I’m not sure I even made it to 11pm before being back in the flat passed out in my bed.
The biggest benefit of being passed out so early on the Sunday night? No hangover on Monday! Though saying that I still had to be woke 30 minutes before our 10:30am checkout and still felt dead to the world.
After cleaning up the flat and checking out, it was off to Wetherspoons for the annual Monday debrief over a giant breakfast. As the next couple of hours went on, the group began to thin out as people began to leave to go home, and at half 12 I waved goodbye to Aber for another year and began my journey back to Gloucester, arriving back just after 6 and proudly showing off my numerous bruises on the way home.
Getting in, it was pretty much a case of going straight to bed and continuing my recovery, being very thankful that I had booked time off so I did not have to be back in work until Friday.
Same again next year chaps!