On Thursday 9th February the stage was set for this years Y5/6 Tag Rugby Borough Finals at Tooting and Mitcham FC. Sixteen schools from across the borough qualified from their cluster round to make the finals and play for a place at the London Youth Games.

All schools arrived early as team managers and coaches started preparing their teams through warm up activities. A short briefing on the format of the day as well as REFSPECT was given to players, coaches and spectators before the matches got underway. Each school was allocated an initial seeding based on the previous round and morning groups were selected so there was representation from each cluster.

The tournament got underway at a frenetic pace with all competing teams running in some scintillating tries from all areas of the field. In Pool A, stand out performances came from Poplar with convincing victories over their opponents to finish top spot with full points. St Marys also demonstrated some impressive rugby throughout the group stages and this culminated in their hard fought 6-4 victory over Sherwood. Sherwood stormed back to narrowly beat St Peter and Paul 5-4 in another hard fought encounter. Although unable to record a victory in the group stages, St Peter and Paul still managed to score some brilliant team tries with some fantastic handling on display.

In Pool B, Bishop Gilpin and Hollymount took control of this group with both teams securing some impressive victories. This culminated in the match between them to take top spot. The match ebbed and flowed until Bishop Gilpin managed to break away in the latter stages of the game to eventually snatch victory and run out 3-2 winners. Hollymount to their credit put this disappointment behind them and demonstrated some effective running rugby in the later stages of the pool games, winning 7-4 against Links in a superb display of flowing rugby. Links and Malmesbury were very evenly matched and this was epitomised in their nail-biting 3-2 contest when they played each other, with Malmesbury claiming the points. Both teams scored some cracking individual tries as well as displaying some well-organised defensive patterns to shut each other out.

In Pool C, St Teresa’s just edged top spot over an equally impressive Aragon side with both sides demonstrating some ruthless attacking to create a try scoring opportunity from just about anywhere on the field. This was down to their slick handling and offloading skills out of the tackle to keep the ball in play. With their match ending in a 4-4 draw it was down to their other games to see who would progress as number one seed from the group. St Teresa’s squeezed into top spot on try difference with their impressive 7-1 victory over St Thomas proving decisive. Both St Thomas and Dundonald also gave a credible account of themselves with both teams registering some impressive team tries and playing out a determined 3-3 draw against each other.

Finally, Pool D was a hotly contested group with St Matthew’s running out narrow group winners over Abbotsbury. This was reflected in their head-to-head contest with both teams scoring well-executed tries and showing great team spirit to battle out a 5-5 draw. Abbotsbury performed strongly in the rest of their fixtures scoring some sublime opportunistic tries to take advantage in tightly contested matches. Wimbledon Park performed admirably, demonstrating clear progression throughout the pool stages. Their best performance came over a battling Bond side, winning this match 4-1. Bond, much like The Sherwood, were extremely unlucky not to register that first pool stage win, but put a huge performance together when they played Abbotsbury to score a superb three tries, brilliant effort!      

With the group stages completed it was time to move onto the knockout stages. If a team finished within the top two of their group they then had the chance to go on to challenge for the title of Borough champions. However, before these fixtures could took place each team were given a seeding, pre-determined from their points total from the pool stages, and this dictated each team’s path into the knockout stages. Teams who finished outside of the top 8 may not have been able to challenge for the title, but this did not stop each of the schools from competing for pride.

The final round of matches were extremely close with a number of these games having to adopt the golden try rule as the scores were level pegging at the final whistle. At the quarter final stage there was some excellent rugby on the display. Some standout matches came from the game between St Teresa’s and Abbotsbury, with St Teresa’s claiming the defining try late on to earn a hard-fought 5-4 victory. The quarter final match between The Sherwood and Links was an attritional affair with the scores locked on six tries all at the end of the 8 minutes of normal time. However, the Sherwood were quick to compose themselves from the restart and after several phases worked the ball into the corner to claim the deciding score. The match between Poplar and Hollymount as well as the match between St Matthew’s and Aragon were both extremely tense with all teams running in a number of superb tries. However, both St Matthew’s and Hollymount did just enough when it was required to win their matches.

The semi-finals did not disappoint either with the quality of rugby on display. Standout results came from Hollymounts convincing 4-1 victory over a strong St Matthew’s side as well as Bishop Gilpin’s incredible 5-4 win over a valiant St Teresa’s which came in golden try time. In these later stages the need for a well organised and cohesive defensive unit was extremely important as each of the top eight teams had a wide variety of attacking options at their disposal.

The final rounds of fixtures were crucial as these determined teams’ ever important final standings. St Thomas of Canterbury secured the battle for 15th place with their hard fought victory over a committed Bond side. 13th place was contested between Malmesbury and Links with Malmesbury clinching this final victory. The Sherwood and Wimbledon Park achieved 11th and 9th place with their wins over St Peter and Paul and Dundonald respectively. The fight for the top eight places was extremely close with small margins separating the eventual winning teams. Aragon claimed a commendable 7th place over a resilient St Mary’s side and Poplar stormed to a 5th place finish over Abbotsbury.

St Teresa’s, who were last year’s champions, played a superb final match to grab a 3rd place finish over St Matthew’s. St Matthew’s, much like Abbotsbury, had a superb attitude throughout the tournament and did everything they could in the final stages of this match to bring the game back, however, the time they needed to manufacture these winning scores cruelly slipped away from them.

With the stage set for the final match to crown the 2016-17 Y5/6 Tag Rugby Borough Champions the match between Bishop Gilpin and Hollymount, the two form sides was a perfect contest to close the tournament. Bishop Gilpin, up to this point, had been dominant throughout all of their matches scoring an average of five tries per game. They did not have everything their own way in this match and with both teams, putting in terrific team performances it was almost impossible to predict a winner. Bishop Gilpin drove forward in the closing stages though and put Hollymount under extreme pressure before finally breaking through to seal a 2-1 victory. Credit to Hollymount, as the standard of their rugby was outstanding and a pleasure to watch. However, there can only be one winner and this year’s deserved champions were Bishop Gilpin. Congratulations and the best of luck representing the borough of Merton in the London Youth Games.

Final Team Standings

  1. Bishop Gilpin

  2. Hollymount

  3. St Teresa’s

  4. St Matthew’s

  5. Poplar

  6. Abbotsbury

  7. Aragon

  8. St Mary’s

  9. Wimbledon Park

  10. Dundonald

  11. The Sherwood

  12. St Peter and Paul

  13. Malmesbury

  14. Links

  15. St Thomas of Canterbury

  16. Bond

In conclusion, the 2016-17 Y5/6 Tag Borough Finals was a great day. Thank you to Tooting and Mitcham for hosting the event. A great deal of thanks must be paid to all of those involved, in particular the leadership team from Rutlish High school who demonstrated some quality refereeing and teamwork in what was a high pressure environment at times. Without these individuals, our tournaments would not be possible, so thank you again for all of your hard work.

A special mention must also be given to the following schools and individuals for receiving nominations for the Refspect award. Dundonald, Poplar and St Thomas were all recognised for their sporting behaviour by their opponents while, Stephanie and Joel from Links were both highlighted as being terrific ambassadors for their school.  A great demonstration of fair play, sportsmanship and etiquette combined with fantastic team work and effort meant they were a credit to their school. A slightly unusual winner for our Refspect award for the Tag rugby competition as it went to Freddie, one of our outstanding officials from Rutlish. Freddie was nominated by several different schools for not only being a very good referee but also displaying the character and values that our Refspect award is based upon. Well done to you all!  

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