04 November 2021 / Club News

Report of Old Penarthians Chairman's Lunch

On Thursday 28th October, the Chairman of Old Penarthians RFC, Stephen Clarke, hosted his second Chairman’s lunch at the clubhouse. Following the first lunch held in February 2020 the ongoing restrictions caused by the pandemic meant that this was really the first opportunity to build on the success of that occasion.

This year the charitable cause that the Club, and the guests attending, were supporting was the Holme Tower Hospice in Penarth in memory of great Old Penarthian supporter Stuart Munro. Hoss as he was known to all who knew him in Penarth and in the insurance and finance businesses in which he was associated for over 40 years succumbed to his terminal illness after a dogged fight in January this year.

In his latter days Holme Tower provided much needed support to his wife, Gill, and to the rest of the family and it was very pleasing that Hoss’s son-in-law, Alex Lewis, was present to enjoy the day’s proceedings.

These started with the traditional ‘heads and tails’ competition where the diners were asked  a series of questions based around the career and family life of the guest speaker for the lunch, John Bentley. In the end it came down to two guests, but before the deciding question Neil Pugh gallantly conceded defeat to Jon Lewis who was the beneficiary of a round of drinks for his table. By the end of the evening it may have appeared that Jon had not shared all the drinks with his fellow diners.

Before the guest speaker took to his feet an excellent four course lunch was provided by Helen Cross and her band of helpers and of course a steady supply of refreshments was dispensed by Bar Manager, Jamie Morgan, and his staff.

John Bentley then introduced himself as proud Yorkshiremen, who was as likely to be aligned with Wales as he would have been with his native England. John started as an amateur rugby union player whilst following a career in the police but turned professional with Leeds Rhinos in 1988. He subsequently returned to the Union game when it went truly professional in 1996.

He was an England international at both codes where he won four caps at Union and five caps at League. He also played twice for the Great Britain Rugby League team and most famously he toured with the 1997 British & Irish Lions team to South Africa where he was joined by five other cross-code players, Scott Gibbs, Alan Tait, Alan Bateman, Scott Quinnell and Dai Young.

‘Bentos’ as he referred to himself was honoured to have been part of the touring party that was selected by Sir Ian McGeechan and Jim Telfer, rather than a committee, and was led by Martin Johnson. He started by relaying the time old philosophy that ‘what happens on tour, stays on tour’ so that was effectively the end of his speech.

Fortunately, that was not the case and as he freely admitted ‘ he liked to talk’ and he did so very successfully over the next 90 minutes in two sessions where he told humorous stories of rugby, touring and family life interspersed with jokes.

He told one particular story about opening his letter on the morning of the team announcement prior to the first test in South Africa which, after a restless night’s sleep, was both enthralling and emotional as he first read ‘congratulations on your selection’ but after further reading he found it was ‘on your selection as a substitute.’  He did however go on to feature in the test team on two occasions.

And much to the amusement of his wife, as he leaves the house for another speaking engagement, he has manged to keep those same stories going for 24 years. It is hoped that his delivery and enthusiasm will continue for many years to come and that ‘Bentos’ will be remembered wherever he speaks, as he was sure to have been by the audience at Old Penarthians.

After the speech the Chairman thanked John for his attendance and for sharing his memories of a life in rugby as well as thanking everyone who had attended and had contributed to the funds raised of £1,000. These monies will be presented to the Holme Tower Hospice charity in the near future.

John remained in the clubhouse throughout the evening and he shared personal stories with many of the people in attendance over a few well-earned drinks.

It is now hoped that some of the 1st XV players that enjoyed John’s late-night company will be sufficiently recovered to be able to play in the first of this season’s league fixtures away to Llandaff on Saturday 13th November. The fixture at the Cathedral Fields, Western Avenue is scheduled to kick off at 2.30pm

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