Fresh from its historic feats on the world’s highest mountain, Wooden Spoon set another world record this summer, by staging the longest ever game of rugby union, which Sevenoaks Rugby Club player Dave Baldwin took part in.
Earlier this year, Wooden Spoon, the children’s charity of rugby, broke two world records on Mount Everest. The first saw a group of intrepid explorers play the highest altitude game of touch rugby outside Everest Base Camp (at 5,119m). The team then went one further with a game of rugby sevens at 6,331m, on the East Rongbuk Glacier, near Advanced Base Camp. It was the highest game of rugby in history.
Wooden Spoon, a charity which uses the power of rugby to positively transform the lives of disabled and disadvantaged children, raised over £250,000 in donations from the LMAX Exchange Everest Rugby Challenge. But the charity’s fundraising efforts were far from done for the year as it embarked on another world record attempt over the bank holiday weekend.
Previously standing at 29 hours and 15 minutes, the record for the world’s longest game of rugby union was set last year by Scotty’s Little Soldiers and the Firefighters Charity. To break this record, a Wooden Spoon team took on a School of Hard Knocks (SOHK) outfit at Hazelwood, the home of Premiership Rugby team London Irish, over a 30-hour period.
Playing a game of rugby, under official laws, the two teams kicked off at 11:00 on Sunday 25th August, and battled hard in tortuous conditions that saw the mercury rise to a searing 33°C. Stamina, hydration and player management, through tactical use of substitutions, were therefore key to the teams’ success, with medics and physios running repairs, taping up players, and applying ice, while volunteers regularly ran on with energy snacks, water and sun cream.
SOHK got on the scoreboard first and were able to keep this lead throughout the game, outmuscling Wooden Spoon over the ensuing 30 hours. With the score showing 2,154 v 1,163 to SOHK, comprising a total of 545 tries, 290 conversions, and four drop goals, the players were relieved to hear the final whistle blow at 17:31 on Monday 26th August, having set a World Record.
The two sides were comprised of enthusiastic rugby fans and players from a variety of backgrounds, including a sprinkling of star dust in the shape of former England cap Andy Gomarsall, who was in the Rugby World Cup-winning squad of 2003.
Gomarsall, who played scrum-half for School of Hard Knocks said, “It’s fair to say that the feats of the teams on Everest were a source of inspiration for those taking part in the longest game, as we vied for a third world record for Wooden Spoon in this Rugby World Cup year. Although we faced a very different challenge – conditions that were probably at the other end of the spectrum to Everest. I don’t think anyone could have foreseen temperatures of over 30°C, which were incredibly draining, as if playing rugby for 30 hours wasn’t difficult enough!
“But the guys bonded throughout the experience and supported each other, drawing strength from what we were setting out to achieve and the great causes that any funds raised will go towards. On behalf of all the players I’d ask that anyone who can donate to Wooden Spoon and School of Hard Knocks in support of this initiative to please do so.”
Sarah Webb, CEO of Wooden Spoon, said, “It is testament to the spirit of Wooden Spoon, School of Hard Knocks and wider rugby family, that this group of players would go to such great lengths to raise money for those less fortunate than themselves. For everyone to have put their bodies under such stress for such a long period of time must have been excruciating but the morale of the players never waned and it was an immensely enjoyable experience for all. It is another epic achievement by the charities and our partners and will make a huge difference to children and young people living in challenging circumstances.”
The longest match of rugby union has been supported by Wooden Spoon’s corporate partners O’Neills, which supplied the kit, and Irwin Mitchell, who sponsored the team’s rugby shirts for the match.
Wooden Spoon aims to raise £100,000 through this challenge to help disadvantaged children in the UK have better opportunities in life as a bid to increase its impact in the year of the Rugby World Cup.