|The County festival is the highlight of most Mini Rugby players’ season and in Northallerton the numbers just continue to grow. Over 3500 girls and boys competed in either this year’s Northallerton A or Northallerton B festivals. Northallerton runs a B festival as a further prestige event for less experienced players and this season it was split between Sutton & Epsom and Camberley, with a final round two weeks later at Dorking, coinciding with the Surrey A festival. This meant a chance to re-live the glory of the Sweet Chariot tour. The new formula enabled more matches to be played without the youngsters waiting around. It also helped to ensure that novice players could earn their battle honours without being ambushed by more experienced teams.
| “It’s not every day that you see your son or daughter become a hero. But when the tension is almost unbearable and the noise is deafening, then there is that match-winning tackle or the last flourish that just breaks through the defence. Finally, the ref blows his whistle and it’s all over. When they’ve given and received their three cheers, they walk off the pitch having done the very best they could and you know that you are about to hug a real live hero. That’s Mini Rugby!”
Steve Robinson, Cobham U9s
|Overall, 27 clubs each fielding multiple squads at Under 7 to Under 12 meant that there were some 650 matches to stage over 54 pitches. That required a battalion of coaches, referees, pitch marshals, RDOs, other officials, medics, caterers and helpers – let alone an army of proud parents and other supportersAt Under 7 & Under 8 there were some really thrilling Tag Rugby contests with youngsters revelling in its opportunity for attacking moves. At Under 9 and above the players must have paid some attention to the ‘Churchillian’ advice of Tony Russ, manager of the Quins Academy, because they also put in some tremendous full contact tackles.
Despite the King Canute style entreaties of RFU President Robert Horner for kind weather, conditions proved to be typically fickle. On the first day, rain lashed beer tents flying away at 2.30am gave way to sun and a virtually clear sky. In contrast, 2 inches of rain fell before the second day and play was beset by persistent rain. However real heroes are made of sterner stuff and none of this could dampen their enthusiasm.
|Much coveted medals and certificates were awarded to all players at the Northallerton B and those in the later stages of the Northallerton A. The ‘blue riband’ Under 12 trophy at the Surrey A was won by Cobham and the plate by Sutton & Epsom. The Under 12 Surrey B trophy was won by Wimbledon with Old Rutlishian as runners up. The real prize was as always the persistent smiles on youngsters’ faces.3500 heroes in the front line, but many others behind it also deserving a hug. In an important partnership for the future, Sutton & Epsom’s part of the Northallerton B was staged in conjunction with NESCOT college, which is also launching a BTEC course in Rugby to match its’ Soccer Development Programme. The Northallerton A was sponsored by ICAP.