I accepted an invitation from Sawston RFC to come to a VP lunch before their RFU Junior Vase game against Brightlingsea, so I duly turned up at the club based at a school a little south of Cambridge. Chairman Mike Tapson was as welcoming as ever and I remarked on the similarities of the two clubs (read my article ‘How does Brightlingsea survive?’). Both clubs play on school grounds and both run two adult teams with the First XV playing at Level 10 in the league structure.
However, Sawston is unique, certainly in Eastern Counties, as the clubhouse is part of the school. The building, which is next to the playground and the sports complex, has a clubroom, kitchen and toilets, but they use the school’s changing rooms which involves going out of the back door and straight into the school’s very modern changing and shower area. The arrangement is ideal as the school is all but deserted at the weekend allowing plenty of parking and no risk of Child Welfare issues. I understand that the school has recently asked if they can use the clubroom for certain lessons in the week which demonstrates a positive synergy between the organisation, providing of course that the bar is well secured!
Sawston re-joined the RFU Leagues this season after several seasons of playing Merit Table rugby, and although they have lost their three leagues games so far the players are enjoying the new challenges league rugby brings. Most of those at the pre-match lunch were expecting to be at the wrong end of a hiding against Brightlingsea but despite going down 7-0 to an early try, Sawston battled away and were level at 7-7 at half time. They continued to play well until a couple of late tries gave Brightlingsea a 21-10 victory and a place in the second round.
I enjoyed my day at Sawston, a grass-roots rugby club with a good attitude to the game and its players.
Pictures from Sawston v Brightlingsea
Having watched two of the smallest clubs in Eastern Counties in the Junior Vase, by contrast I watched two of the biggest on Sunday when Colchester and Shelford Colts played each other in the second round of the National Colts Cup. Over the past few years Colchester and Shelford have dominated Colts Rugby in the area and encounters between them have rarely been settled by more than a handful of points and this was no exception.
It was a beautiful day to watch rugby but the game itself wasn’t the spectacle of previous ones with both sides struggling to maintain continuity and most of the play being between the 22s. This didn’t make it any the less passionate as testosterone-fuelled words and punches were exchanged early on by colts on both teams. The only clear try-scoring chance of the first half fell to Colchester who took it to lead 8-6 at the break.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, a Shelford penalty giving them a slender 9-8 lead with about 10 minutes to go. Against the run of play Colchester broke through on half-way to score under the posts, only for Shelford to take a tap-penalty in the dying stages and score a converted try to claim what was on balance a deserved 16-15 victory.
The joy of our game is that despite trying to knock seven bells out of each other on the pitch, as soon as the whistle blew there were congratulations and handshakes from both sets of players, a number of whom have played together in Eastern Counties representative teams over the years.
Pictures from Colchester Colts v Shelford
I should mention the other Cup competition happening on the other side of the world.
England were deservedly knocked out of the Rugby World Cup after a series of mediocre performances. Let’s see what the reviews into the how the players on and off the field throws up but it is clear that we will have seen the last of a number of stalwarts playing in the white (or black!) of England.
France have somehow limped their way to the final in a manner reminiscent of England’s progress to the 2007 final against South Africa. My immediate reaction to Warburton’s red card was much the same as most people watching in that it didn’t seem to deserve such harsh treatment. But the law and IRB directives are clear and Alain Rolland was right to send him off, it was just a shame it happened to one of the best players of the tournament and one who clearly had no malicious intent.
Wales came desperately close to winning but I have to point to some poor decision making and kicking which, if just one had gone over, would have seen one of the most remarkable wins in World Cup history.
The All Blacks are huge favourites for Sunday, but France usually have one good game in them at each World Cup (remember the quarter-final against New Zealand in Cardiff in 2007?). Maybe this game will be the one but I wouldn’t put money on it!