OA Lions Under 11s win Bedford Festival Cup for 5th time

Brave OA Sharks battle to Plate Final

Other OA teams win local fixtures in a successful start to the Under 11 season

OA Lions - Bedford Festival Cup winners

OA Lions – Bedford Festival Cup winners

OA Under 11s took 2 teams to the Bedford Festival last Sunday, and OAs were attempting to maintain their 100% record by winning the Festival for the 5th time in a row.

The Bedford festival is always the first competitive outing of the season and after 4 weeks of training it is always interesting to see how the boys have developed since last season. This season, the players are adapting to larger pitches, more players, increased competition for the ball at the breakdown and the introduction of kicking.

The competition was run as an ‘Cup’ and separate ‘B’ festival.  The draw was a little unkind as the Lions were in a pool of just three in the Cup festival, while the Sharks had been placed in the “B” competition, which overlooked the fact that the Sharks finished second to the Lions in last seasons County Cup.

Following a comprehensive win in their first game and a double-figures loss by a team in the Cup, it was agreed that the Sharks should move to the Cup competition to preserve the spirit of the competition.  The Sharks however would have to inherit the heavy loss, and try their hardest to reach the knockout stages.  Playing some lovely rugby they won their next two games against teams from Northampton scoring some beautifully worked team tries and some from lovely individual efforts.

The loss that they inherited prevented the Sharks reaching the Cup final, but they finished their pool in second place to qualify for the Plate Final.

The Lions were drawn in a group with Harpenden and Hemel Camelot. Against Harpenden, the Lions started well and scored a nicely worked try by moving the ball along the line, and took full advantage of a Harpenden error to move 2-0 up after 5 minutes. The boys rucked really well and moved the ball nicely especially in the first half. Harpenden came more in to the game in the second half but the game remained 2-0 at full time. The Lions then played some lovely passing rugby in beating a spirited Hemel Camelot side, to finish the small pool as winners, and qualified for the Cup Final.

The Plate final was the Sharks against a very strong Harpenden A side. The Sharks were on top for the first half and the game was played in the Harpenden 22. Despite their best efforts the Sharks couldn’t breach a very stout defence and the match was scoreless at half time. In the second half Harpenden moved the ball wider and found some holes in the Sharks defence, running out winners by 3 tries to 1 in what was a very keenly contested and hard fought match.

The Cup final was the Lions against Bedford and the boys kept their best until last, rucking well and moving the ball through the hands at pace to run out comfortable winners.

Despite playing less games than usual, the sun shone for most of the day and that kept the spirits of the boys and the parents high! It was an enjoyable end to a relatively long but successful day.  The Lions and Sharks teams now move on to play in the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup next Saturday at Allianz Park.  The Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup is a nationwide tournament for under 11 and under 12 teams and is run in conjunction with all twelve Premiership Rugby clubs. The winning teams will represent their Premiership Rugby club at the Parade of Champions at the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final in May.

John Cullen, coach of the Lions and Sharks commented “Both teams have played extremely well today at Bedford. So a great start to the season and hopefully we can play as well at Allianz Park on Saturday in what will be a very tough test against some very strong teams.”

Elsewhere, the OA Chiefs, Stormers, Wolfpack and Bulls travelled to Harpenden for a morning of competitive fixtures.  With over 40 U11 players travelling, spectators were treated to the sight of Maroon, Blue and Gold stripes running in tries in an unbeaten morning of rugby for the Woollams minis.  These players now travel to Letchworth next week for their first festival of the season.  Within that group will be 7 players getting their first taste of festival rugby.

Julian Skeels, head coach of Old Albanian Under 11s said “What a great set of performances from all the players, some of whom only picked up a rugby ball 4 weeks ago. All the coaches are delighted with how the season has started, and we have high hopes for this set of players.  Many thanks to our great friends at Bedford and Harpenden rugby clubs for their excellent hospitality as usual”.

Old Albanian Under 11s are a mini rugby team for Year 6 children.  Some of our players are now in their 6th season of playing rugby having played tag rugby from the age of 5 and contact rugby as Under 9s. Other players are just discovering the joys of rugby…  Whatever the skill and experience of a player, everyone is welcome.

We currently have spaces to offer, and we are especially keen to recruit players who are new to rugby, or are not currently existing members of another local club.  Parents of players interested in joining should make contact with the Head Coach. Membership forms and fees for joining OAJRFC are available on the “Joining OAJRFC” page.