At the start of the season, the organisers of the Lexus National Rugby Tournament invited Old Albanians to take part in the most significant national tournament for mini rugby . In October OA’s Under 10’s won the Central England and East Anglian Regional qualifiers which consisted of 16 teams from the region. They beat a very strong Colchester team in the final. The prize was a trip to the National Finals played last Sunday at Worcester Rugby Club’s Sixways Stadium.
Only the winner from each of the six regional qualifiers progressed to the final and on Sunday the OA boys faced teams from Yorkshire, Newcastle, South Wales, Kent and Liverpool. Given the long journey for most participants, instead of straight knock-out , the format was a round robin where each team played 5 games. To make the occasion even more special the team (and their parents!) travelled up to Worcester on the Saturday afternoon to ensure the boys got an early night and not too early a start on the Sunday!
The day set up perfectly for the OA team as the weather was glorious and the pitches were very large – both suiting the team’s expansive style of rugby. The boys were unbelievably excited and a little nervous – they had an unbeaten run going back a few years and were looking forward to the challenge of meeting some new teams at a National level.
The boys played wonderfully all day – they got off to a great start by beating Waterloo 4 tries to nil. This was followed by a closer encounter with Cowbridge from South Wales whom they beat 2 tries to 1. They then played exceptionally well against Northern Rugby (Newcastle), who had been unbeaten in their first 2 games and OA’s won this game by 5-1. In the penultimate game the boys passing and pace was too much for Hull RFC and we ran out winners by 7 tries to nil.
The final game was against a very good Tonbridge team, the only other unbeaten team in the tournament. The boys were getting very excited at this stage of the day – wondering if they won this game would they qualify for the Europeans!
Playing in front of a very big crowd in a beautiful stadium, the boys got off to a fabulous start, scoring within seconds of the kick-off. Another excellent try came before half-time to lead 2-0 and although Tonbridge were camped on our line for long periods of the second-half, some great defensive work kept out a very spirited team and in the dying stages of the game OA’s scored a breakaway try to win by 3 tries to nil.
There were great celebrations at the final whistle. The boys were thrilled as they lifted the trophy and were crowned the winners of the Lexus National Rugby Tournament. The team had played brilliantly all day with everyone playing a crucial part in the victory. It had been a great day and a wonderful experience for everyone involved.
John Cullen, coach of the winning team said “The players have had a great season, winning the Saracens cup, retaining the County Cup and now winning the National Finals. We are incredibly proud of them, and its great to see young players playing such an attractive brand of open running rugby.”
Julian Skeels, Head Coach of Old Albanian Under 10s said “What a great result for the players. Huge thanks must go to the organisers at Lexus, and to Worcester Warriors for running such a fabulous event, and to our friends at Lexus Hatfield for their support of the team.”