The Coleraine U11 mini rugby squad ended their mini rugby careers and their season on a high after they entered 2 teams into the Tigers Challenge rugby tournament held in Minehead, Somerset. Teams from all over England, Scotland and Wales attend this tournament with over 1000 players attending the event. Both Coleraine teams played extremely well with one team coming home victorious with the Tigers Challenge Shield.
Historically the U11 squad from Coleraine Rugby Club would have traveled to play in a tournament hosted by London Irish RFC, however it was felt that perhaps it was time for a change of location and venue with the incentive of being able to offer every boy a place on the playing teams where previously only one team would have been allowed to enter and play at the London tournament.
The tour party consisting of 21 boys and 27 adults left on the Friday morning and arrived in Minehead that afternoon after a journey filled with banter and boys singing songs in the back of the bus. It was difficult to know who was the more excited at the prospect of the rugby tour – the boys or their parents.
Coleraine Mini Rugbys main sponsor – McClartys Insurance were extremely generous in donating a tour kit on behalf of their Its4women.ie car insurance brand. This pink and blue kit stood out from all the other kits at the tournament and attracted many comments and photo requests by other teams and their supporters. Other local businesses including The Bank of Ireland, New Society Café Coleraine, McCaughans Pharmacy Ballycastle, Warkes Deli Portstewart, Northern Ireland Energy Rating and Frylite also came on board with donations without which the tour just wouldn’t have been such a success.
The event was held over two days with the group stages being held on the first day and the knockout stages the following day. The U11 squad was divided into 2 teams – The Coleraine Giants and The Coleraine Legends. Teams consisted of 9 players with substitutes.
The Legends topped their group without losing a game with superb performances from every boy. None more so than the most popular and ever smiling boy on tour – Frank McCaughan – who in the Legends final group game was heard telling the rest of the Legends team – “ There’s only 9 more minutes to go!” This was the time remaining to win the group and this became a much used motivational quote for the rest of the tournament when either team may have been finding it tough going in a game and perhaps needed some encouragement.
The Giants were runners up in their group after some superb running rugby and ferocious tackling. The only team to narrowly beat the Giants was a district rugby side from Pontypridd in Wales. This Welsh side were selected from the best players in the Pontypridd district and would be the equivalent of the Coleraine boys being selected from the best U11 rugby players in County Antrim or Londonderry. To only have one try scored against them in this game was no embarrassment and despite the boys feeling disappointed the coaches were very proud of their performances. Of particular note was Charlie Orr who after scoring from the first kick off in the first game of the tournament with a brilliant individual try seemed to go from strength to strength throughout the two days and was awarded the player of the tournament by the Coleraine coaches at the end of season awards dinner.
The knockout stages followed the next day with the sun shining and the weather warm. Supporters were wearing their t-shirts, shorts and sunglasses such was the glorious weather.
The Legends who were in the Cup competition unfortunately lost their semifinal to the Pontypridd district side as the Giants had done the previous day but went on to win their 3rd place play-off match with a very entertaining game filled with passion and excitement. Jack Hart and Jack Devenney , both who attended Damhead Primary School played particularly well and showed great skill and pace.
The Giants who were in the shield competition came up against Shipton on Stour 2’s and went on to win the game by 4 tries to nil. This qualified them for the shield final where they played against Shipston on Stour 1’s where after powerful dominance by the forwards where Matthew Murphy excelled and some slick passing moves by the backs they won the Tigers Challenge shield by 6 tries to nil. Needless to say – much celebrating followed by the team and coaches after this superb result.
The team spirit and togetherness of the coaches, boys and parents during their time at the Tigers Challenge was second to none and the most emotional parents prize was deservedly won by Sandra Hunter and Tara Hughes who needed several boxes of tissues to dry their eyes after witnessing the boys in both teams play their final mini rugby matches and hence end what has been a tremendous experience during the previous 6 years of playing rugby as part of this squad.
The coaches, David Curry, Neil Campbell, Andy Draycott, Dave Ilsley, Paul Hughes and Richard Orr would like to thank Coleraine Mini Rugby Academy, the parents and not forgetting the boys, for the opportunity to coach, for the opportunity to have such fun and for the opportunity to hopefully forge lifelong friendships. As one parent succinctly put it at the end of the season – Coleraine Mini Rugby U11’s 2016 – where amazing happened!