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Ulster tycoon on top of the world after Arctic rugby record-breaker

By Amanda Ferguson

Published 01/05/2015

David Mercer on the North Pole
David Mercer on the North Pole
The historic game of charity rugby

It wasn't the scoreline he wanted but Ulster Rugby fan David Mercer is over the moon after completing the most northerly game of rugby sevens in the sport's history - and setting a record.

The London-based supporter, originally from Belfast, was among 11 challengers and their support team of polar guides who successfully played the most northerly rugby match at the 1996 position of the Magnetic North Pole at the end of a five-day trek across the Arctic sea ice.

The intrepid 44-year-old has helped raise £300,000 for the Wooden Spoon children's charity.

"It's only -20C right now so it is quite warm," he told the Belfast Telegraph last night.

"I am very well. It has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

The sevens teams, captained by former Rugby Union internationals, ended with Team Tim victorious in a closely-fought battle under the scrutiny of official RFU referee Lee Mears, a former England hooker. Team Ollie battled hard, but lost 17-14.

The match was played at 6pm on April 28 (local time) on a pitch marked out on the ice and lightweight posts were erected after being flown in with the referee.

"When the plane landed with the spectators we had 90 minutes to set up the pitches and posts and play and get the spectators off," David said.

"We had a base layer on, fleeces and rugby tops and some wore head guards and mouth guards but being from Belfast I went for a wee risk and didn't bother."

And he added: "We lost to a last-minute try but it was amazing to be part of it."

David, who was born in Belfast and brought up in Bangor, Co Down, but who is now based in London where he runs financial services tech firm LMAX, says his wife Benedicte is proud of him but thinks he is a little crazy.

"She thinks I am a nutball," he said.

"We climbed Kilimanjaro in 2010 but the Arctic was a step too far."

The Wooden Spoon charity, which supports disabled and disadvantaged children across the UK and Ireland, has seen its fundraising pot swell by £300,000 thanks to the sporting endeavour.

"I raised £50,000 and my company LMAX donated £100,000," he said.

"It was all filmed by World Rugby so will be verified in the coming weeks as the most northern game of rugby ever played.

"If anyone tries to beat it good luck but we certainly will be first."

David will fly to Ottawa in Canada today and then it's back to London where he can relax and reflect on his history-making achievement.

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