The Great Britain Student Pioneers have already made a significant impression on their tour to Ghana, and not just in beating the All-Stars 48-10 in their opening game at the Presbyterian Boys’ School in Legon.
In the aftermath, the squad ran two 90 minute coaching sessions, introducing the sport to around 180 children aged from 12 to 17.
Tropical rain storms initially delayed the P.E. classes but the pupils loved it, hanging on every word of deliverers Phil Heath and Jimmy Rodger.
Ghana RL development officer Sylvester Wellington commented: “You could see from the children’s reactions, expressions and willingness to learn that the game could really grow in this country.”
“The engagement that followed from the previous day’s game was exponentially better than anticipated.”
He added, “Ghana RL are currently aiming to create a rugby league programme and structure within the school, ultimately leading to an academy.”
“The teachers could see the enjoyment from their students and have asked the Pioneers to return and hold a number of sessions for the remaining year groups.”
“The children will play in their first competitive game as a curtain raiser to the national squad this weekend.”
In the match, in front of a big, enthusiastic crowd, the opening exchanges were typically physical,
The Pioneers breaking the deadlock on ten minutes after shifting the ball to the left wing for Ben Chipperfield to cross, Ryan Lee missing the conversion.
Scores to Nik Zalad and Sam Roe followed quickly, Sam Swire galloping over for the fourth try not long after as the All-Stars were caught napping out wide.
The hosts then tightened up their defence and kept the tourists at bay for the next 18 minutes until Ryan Dowsett crossed following a scrum, converted by Ed Linford, followed by Jimmy Rodger’s touchdown from a nice pass from stand off Dowsett.
Good play from Lee found full back Jonny Morris on the inside, and he made it a double early in the second and Morris found Adam Cunliffe out wide. The best score was fashioned when Dowsett broke a tackle and set off on a long run, sending David O’Connor over for the Pioneers’ tenth touchdown, Lee with his third goal.
Late on, the crowd were sent wild when, following back to back penalties, the All-Stars moved the play to the left hand corner only to be held up short of the line.
The next play, though, saw second rower Lavoron Ibrahem crash over for the first home try and, with the wind in their sails, Idriis Suleiman jumped out from acting half back, threw an audacious dummy which fooled the Pioneers defence and touched by the posts, Ibrahem converting.
GB Pioneers head coach Rich Tate commented: “It was a really tough match and the strength and enthusiasm of the Ghana All-Stars took us by surprise. We now know what to expect going into the two test matches and will prepare accordingly.”
Opposite number Martin Crick noted: “It was a very brave and committed performance by a team experiencing their first taste of international competition and with most players having less than a season’s rugby league experience.”
“I was very proud of the way they competed until the very end. The difference between the two teams was the Pioneers’ ability to play the game at a faster pace than the Ghanaians were used to.”
Sylvester Wellington was equally pleased with the performance. “With some financial help the sport will thrive here and will produce some fantastic players,” he said.
“Currently Ghana RL has one member of staff who does everything from the kit washing to coaching and referring.”
“The Pioneers have brought a number of playing kits – special thanks to Bradford Bulls, Hull FC, Wibsey Warriors and TASC College – and the RLEF have donated a number of new balls, a new national kit, training vests and club polo shirts.”