GALLERY: Simon’s part in world record rugby match in aid of charity founded by West Norfolk war widow

15:46 04 June 2013

Simon Whittaker after the game

Simon Whittaker after the game

Archant

A MARCH Bears player took part in the world’s longest ever rugby match last weekend.

Players and their families together after the gamePlayers and their families together after the game

Former soldier Simon Whittaker, 40, of Norwood Road, March, was one of 44 heroic men who slugged it out for 24 hours 50 minutes at Leicester Tigers’ Welford Road stadium to raise £60,000 for armed forces charity Scotty’s Little Soldiers.

The epic contest, played in front of a crowd of several hundred, kicked off at 11am on Friday and ran until Saturday afternoon.

As well as being the longest match in history, it was also the highest scoring, with the Armed Forces XV beating the Scotty’s Little Soldiers XV 1742 - 828.

Whittaker, who also represents March Bears Veterans, stayed on the pitch for a herculean 23 hours.

Simon Whittaker with his medalSimon Whittaker with his medal

He said: “It was a fantastic experience. My wife and kids were watching from the stands and I played about 23 hours.

“I started at hooker and played all over the pitch. To be honest I got through on adrenaline.”

The game was organised by Walpole St Andrew widow Nikki Scott, whose late husband Corporal Lee Scott was killed in Afghanistan in 2009.

The charity was set up to support children who have lost parents who were serving in the armed forces.

Simon Whittaker gets a hug from Nikki Scott, the founder of Scotty's Little SoldiersSimon Whittaker gets a hug from Nikki Scott, the founder of Scotty's Little Soldiers

Whittaker, who retired from the armed forces this year after 23 years of service which included tours of Iraq, Afghanistan, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Cyprus, served in the same regiment as Corporal Scott for eight years.

He said: “Nikki Scott came on the pitch and gave me a cuddle. I had some tears in my eyes when she brought me some water and told me what an amazing job I was doing and that her husband Lee would be proud of me.”

Mrs Scott said: “We are so proud of all the players. They went at it full contact throughout the whole 25 hours.

“When it got to 3am there were so many injuries that I thought they might not make it but when I came back to the ground at 6am they were still going.

The children get to meet the Red DevilsThe children get to meet the Red Devils

“By the end I felt like I was watching 44 boys and I was their mum, hoping they would not get hurt. They were amazing.”

The previous world record for the longest game of rugby union was held by Congleton Rugby Club, whose match lasted 24 hours 30 minutes.

Whittaker says he lost track of how many tries he scored, which is unusual for a front row forward.

He said: “I don’t know how many tries I scored. I guess about 15 in total.

“It was nice to get that feeling of running over the line.

Whittaker says he feels privileged to have taken part in such a remarkable occasion.

He said: “I’m still overwhelmed to have been part of such an amazing achievement.

“It is not something I thought I could do.”

March Bears is holding an open day on July 27 and the club is planning a charity match in aid of Scotty’s Little Soldiers for the end of August.

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