Catholics students from Merseyside, Sierra Leone, Botswana and Swaziland played at a rugby festival on the Wirral

St Anselm’s College, the grammar school on Merseyside founded by the Irish Christian Brothers, has long had close links with West Africa. The school’s trustees, the Christian Brothers, maintain Roman Catholic schools and parishes in that part of the world.

This relationship entered a new phase when they hosted a touring party from their twin school, St Francis School, Makeni, in Sierra Leone, between September 23 and 29.

The visiting party of 10 boys and two staff lived with St Anselm’s families and participated in lessons and assemblies as well as touring local landmarks, including as spectators at Anfield for the Liverpool-Sunderland game. The main focus of their visit, which has been funded by St Anselm’s students, was to play in the Touraid Rugby Festival at Caldy Rugby Club on September 26.

None of the African students had ever played rugby before they were introduced to the game in February. They played in a combined St Anselm’s and St Francis team, called the Makeni Warriors, with the boys from their host families in the tournament.

The teams from Swaziland and Botswana impressed by their speed and athleticism, as well as by the fact that they played barefoot.

After an exciting group phase the knock-out stages the Makeni Warriors emerged as the team of the tournament winning both their semi-final and final, against the Swaziland Jackals, by 35 points to nil against valiant, but outclassed, opposition.

The competition was impeccably organised by Touraid and Jane Corlett at Caldy RFC and was very well-attended on a gloriously sunny day. Many spectators had tears in their eyes when the boys from Makeni sang their school song upon receipt of the impressive Touraid Cup.

Their school has already been informed of their victory by an item on the national radio news in Sierra Leone. An open-top parade was planned for their return home.

The Christian Brothers’ mission in Sierra Leone dates back to 1985 when Brother Coffey, a former headmaster of St. Anselm’s, re-founded the Catholic mission school in Makeni.