Enjoyment and friendships - 40 years of mini rugby
As the frost cleared and a dimpsy winter morning sparked into life, a turquoise sky and bright sunshine bathed the Blackmore Field and hundreds of children played rugby; they ran, passed, kicked, tackled, rucked, mauled, smiled, laughed, groaned and cheered - much as, no doubt, 40 years ago, in 1971, a similar group had a taste of rugby when Sidmouth became the first club in Devon with a junior section.
On Sunday, Sidmouth fielded teams across all ages from U7-U16. At the Blackmore the U7s played a traditional Pullin Cup while Somerset visitors Winscombe were victorious at 11 & 12s but not before two excellent games.
The Sidmouth 12s took-on a well organized and skilful side which constantly tested the home defence. A half-time score of 1-0 to Winscombe and a big change in the Sidmouth side ensured everyone played and the game stayed equally hard fought but with Winscombe pulling away to win.
The U10s played an exciting three-way with Teignmouth and Honiton, with Teignmouth just edging out Sidmouth on tries scored and the U8s, having been soundly beaten by Honiton earlier in the season, were extremely pleased to come away with a well deserved draw. The U9s, facing an eagerly awaited and well drilled Chiefs’ team including one star of the future, were back to business as usual; tackle the opposition, get possession then run, evade and play! The score being a 5-2 Sidmouth win with excellent performances throughout including the tries from Charlie Mcaig, Henry Williams, Thomas Mead and Joe Tozer. While all this action took place at the Blackmore the U15s played Ivybridge and the U13s played Teignmouth at Sidford, with the U14s who trained
?As the rugby gathered momentum on the field, club chairman Mark Seward and director Terry O'Brien, paced around in anticipation of the President of the RFU who was running late from Twickenham. When Mr Wildash arrived, his calm, sociable and warm personality stamped the day with a seal of approval from the very top. Among other VIP guests were the many generous sponsors - - thank you all for guaranteeing the day was a success.
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Willie Wildash was joined for speeches, and to present a table full of silverware, by more rugby royalty in the shape of Maxwell Turner, the President of the Devon RFU, and Conrad Sutcliffe, the Chairman of The Devon Rugby Referees’ Society. The minis and juniors were further encouraged by the support of club captain Sam Richardson and several athletic and bruised 1st XV team mates.
?A cute and elegant team of cheerleaders stoked the atmosphere for the final commemorative game between The Devon President’s XV and the Sidmouth U16s. Among the President’s Men were loosehead Tyler To, whose impressive technique made a huge impact on the game, his Torquay team mate Jack Bond who has genuine pace and strength and openside Josh Bickley from Okehampton, whose second half try could have turned the game.
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The match began nervously with Sidmouth under pressure at a scrum and then two line outs where Devon looked very organized and scored a simple catch and drive try. But Sidmouth adapted quickly and started to show signs of their ability to keep the ball alive; and with the ball in hand and a tiny bit of space, they looked dangerous. Under pressure, Devon conceded two penalties which Charlie Cotton converted followed by a try from outstanding home centre George Locke after some all-important quick ball and accurate handling.
The grandstand roared and Sidmouth slipped into a deserved lead. Devon came back either side of half time and three tries put them 11-24 ahead.
Sam Carlisle became the stand-out ball-carrying loose forward and, with Christian Goddard organising at scrum-half, Sidmouth kept the pressure off. With rolling replacements for the 23 man squad, both Toomey and Luke Wells-Burr had time to re-group and, while they did, Will Jenkins put shape into Sidmouth’s midfield, timing a perfect pass to Faulkner to touch down. Wells-Burr and Locke were making holes through the Devon midfield and, after several phases, Locke burst through a gap and glided under the posts for his second try to make it 23-24. This was a match with genuine excitement and quality and one which many of the players will remember with a smile, win or lose. An attacking scrum for Sidmouth provided a platform and, after two clean rucks, Goddard found Toomey who pulled-in the President’s defence and boomed a perfect cross-field kick which Cotton took in mid air and had the footwork to loose his marker and race over. Mr Sutcliffe spotted a crucial tiny off-side and calmly called it back to preserve the Devon lead which meant a kick for touch and the game.
Any disappointment was trumped by excitement and sportsmanship which perfectly emphasised Willie’s words to all the players; rugby is about ‘enjoyment and friendships’. In another 40 years let’s hope the Blackmore Field celebrations echo what happened on Sunday. and no doubt they will be organized by players from the ranks of the 2011 Sidmouth Juniors. Happy Days and Happy Christmas from Sidmouth RFC.