Rugby Alive and Well on Sumbawa

Rugby Alive and Well on Sumbawa

Recently I travelled to the island of Sumbawa along with a long time Rugby colleague Tony Dickinson to officiate in the inaugural Sumbal Cup match between the Sumbawa Nagas and the Bali Hanoman.

The Sumbal Cup is the brainchild of Sumbawa Naga stalwarts Warren Wilcox and Jonathon Parker, plus Bali Rugby President, Nick Mesritz, with name of the trophy an acronym representing the two participating provinces and not a bottle of hot chilli sauce. These gents conceived the idea of Sumbawa and Bali competing against each other in 15-a-side Rugby on an annual ‘home and away’ basis on their respective islands, with a third and deciding match to be played on the intermediate island of Lombok.

Having not travelled to Lombok since 1997 and having never visited Sumbawa, I looked forward to once again being given the opportunity to escape from the cityscape of Jakarta to the outer isles of the archipelago for not only a game of Rugby but also some fresh air and the tranquillity of open space. Tony and I had an overnight stay in Lombok on the way to Sumbawa, enjoying the layback atmosphere of the Sengigi Beach area before boarding a sea plane to Sumbawa early the next morning. Having never flown on a seaplane before, I like Tony was ready for an adventure into the unknown, beginning with bewilderment as to how our trusty Cessna would land on water!

Climbing aboard our flight from Lombok to Sumbawa was made all the more easier when we received a warm Irish welcome from our pilot who quickly ensured us that our plane could both fly in the air and float on water. The flight across Lombok was very interesting as we first spotted a mosaic of green rice fields and river valleys followed by amazing cliffs along the south coast of Lombok, before a short ocean stretch as we approached the cliffs of Sumbawa. Our pilot effortlessly guided our plane along a steep ridge before making a sharp right turn into the sheltered waters of the Sumbawa Harbour, making a smooth landing in a bay that resembled a scene from the Hollywood blockbuster, Jurassic Park.

Upon arriving at Sumbawa, Tony and I completed all the necessary arrival formalities including watching a safety video (after all we were visiting a mine site albeit for a game of Rugby) and then headed for the Sumbawa Mining Camp. Being one who has visited many mining camps in Indonesia and Australia, the Sumbawa facility is something else in not only its layout but also the fact that it is located beside one of the most beautiful surf beaches imaginable. This same beach hosts the ‘Tropical Beach & Spa Resort’ owned by the White family (son Andrew has represented Indonesia in 2 Rugby Tests and is also known for his screen appearances). After a hearty breakfast, Tony and I headed to the Newmont Guesthouse for some much needed rest before the big game later that afternoon.

The Sumbawa Rugby Pitch would have to be one of the most picturesque sports fields in Indonesia with rainforest-clad mountains forming a backdrop and its nearby forests are complete with plenty of local macak monkeys. As mentioned earlier this was the first ever match of the Sumbal Cup and also the first ever 15-a-side Rugby match to be played on the island of Sumbawa. As both teams warmed up it was evident to Tony and I that 90% of the match participants would be Indonesian born players, which was a testament to the efforts of those involved in Sumbawa and Bali Rugby to introduce the sport to locals. Another interesting fact was that the match was also the first 15-a-side game for many of the gents pulling on their boots.

Whilst the first half was a struggle for most of the players to adapt to the conditions plus the rigours of 15s Rugby, the second half opened up into a more interesting contest as both teams began to move the ball and chance their opportunities at scoring tries. The Nagas opened the scoring early in the second half following a try by David Pasaribu, only to see Bali winger Markus hit back shortly, leaving Bali trailing 5-7. Some quick thinking by long time expat and Rugby tart, Warren Wilcox then saw the Nagas move out to a 12-5 lead heading into the final quarter. The young Bali backs despite their inexperience tried hard all day and were rewarded late in the match with some turnover ball resulting in a try by Marc Sassus-Bourde to have the score at 12-10, before some great teamwork by the Nagas led to a final try by Abdul Hafid, leaving the final score 17-10 in favour of the Nagas. It was not so much the score that was important on the day but the way in the match was played in great spirits by both teams and refereed well by Tony, who has a great deal of experience in dealing with development Rugby here in Indonesia. Plenty of Sumbawa locals turned up to added their support to the local lads and the pitch side atmosphere matched their enthusiasm.

Later that evening the Nagas hosted a dinner and refreshments at a nearby restaurant on one of Sumbawa’s many fine beaches and in the atmosphere of many great post-match celebrations all those involved in the match enjoyed the camaraderie that makes Rugby famous all round the world. A big thank you from Indonesian Rugby was extended to Peter Ferrigno from Newmont who organised the flights and accommodation, for Tony and I plus the lads from the Bali Rugby Club, as well as to Warren Wilcox and Jonathon Parker for their efforts in making sure the Rugby side of things went ahead as well. Another special mention should also go to Andries Smallberger who took Tony and me on a great tour of the Sumbawa Copper and Gold Mine and Processing Facilities, as well as the seaplane pilots who provided us with incredibly scenic flights especially the one on the way back from Sumbawa to Bali.

This short Rugby Tour was certainly a major highlight of my time being involved in Indonesian Rugby and like all involved I am looking forward to Game 2 of the 2012 Sumbal Cup in Bali later this year.