Ryan Bevington came off the bench to make his Heineken Cup debut against Viadana last weekend, the highlight of an unforgettable and action packed 36 hours for the young prop.
The young loose head, who made his first start for the region against Glasgow earlier this season, thought he was reliving a scene from the classic comedy Plane, Trains and Automobiles as he raced to join up with his Ospreys team-mates at their Parma hotel ahead of the game after discovering that his passport had expired just hours before departure. To cap the weekend off, after coming on from the bench for his debut in place of Paul James just before the hour mark, he tasted the disappointment of 10 minutes in the sin-bin for a yellow card offence.
It rounded off what had been a week to remember for the Porthcawl RFC product, who celebrated his 21st birthday just three days prior to the game. Speaking about his epic journey to north Italy, he said:
“It was a bit of an adventure. Thursday evening at about four o’clock I got a text from Dani, our team manager, asking me for my new passport details, and I thought ‘what does she mean, my new passport’? I looked at it and it had expired, so straight away it was a panic trying to get it sorted. By half past four I was down the Post Office, explaining the situation, and they put me on the phone to the Passport Office in Newport, who booked me in for eight o’clock on Friday morning.
“Our flight was from Cardiff at 10.30 so I knew it was going to be tight. I got there early, I was queuing outside at half past seven before it had even opened. I was in, gave them all the paperwork by ten past eight, but didn’t get my passport back until ten so I knew then that I wouldn’t get the flight. There were telephone calls going between me, Dani, Andrew Hore and Barny in the office and I was told then that I had to get to Bristol Airport where they had booked me onto a flight to Milan. I got there not long after twelve but because of fog no planes were leaving the airport. I think it was about six that we took off.
“The plane was full of our supporters, they all wanted to know why I was travelling with them and obviously, were all laughing at me when I told them the story. In fairness, they were worried about me, people were offering to put me up in their hotel if I had any problems. They even offered to reroute their bus to get me to the team hotel if I needed them to, they were as good as gold.
“As if I hadn’t had enough to worry about the flight proved eventful. An elderly Italian man collapsed right next to me, I think he had low blood pressure, and I caught him before he hit the floor. I had to hold him then as they were giving him oxygen, for about 30 minutes. When we got to Milan, Andrew Hore rang me and said that there would be someone meeting me at the airport to bring me to the hotel. That was where I met Mike and John Harvey, and we got a taxi from Milan to Parma, getting to the hotel by eleven o’clock at night. By that time, I hadn’t eaten since two, so they took me to a restaurant in the town that was bouncing, the owner was singing karaoke and everybody was dancing, but at least I got some food. I think I got back to the hotel and finally got to bed about half past twelve. I got a few remarks from some of the boys on Saturday morning but in fairness, they were glad that I got there because if I hadn’t, I think the only scenario would have been Hibbs going to loosey if anything had happened.”
Having finally arrived at the Hotel Parma e Congressi, a short distance from Reggio Emilia where the game was being played, Bevington did get the chance to taste Heineken Cup action, and he said that it crowned an unforgettable trip:
“It was a great opportunity for me to get a taste of the Heineken Cup, I really enjoyed it. I suppose on balance there were good and not so good aspects when you look at the yellow card, but having had the chance I would love to get more game time in the competition if possible.
“I didn’t really expect to be playing any Heineken Cup rugby this season, I thought that hopefully if all went well I’d get some LV= Cup time and maybe a bit more in the Magners League than I’ve had previously. Rugby being the way it is you never know when that chance is going to come though. Things change for a team from day-to-day and with Duncan’s injury it’s given me the opportunity. That’s the way with professional sport, hopefully he will make a speedy recovery, but in the meantime, the Ospreys may need me to step up and be involved again, like on Saturday, and I’m looking forward to being involved.”