Sevenoaks Rugby Club hosted the Under 21s Prodigals Cup on Easter Sunday and judging by the turnout, the quality of rugby and the positive feedback from the players, it will become an annual event at the home of the Mighty Oaks.
Designed as a tournament for Under 21s including those still studying, where clubs can reconnect with former junior players, the primary aim of the competition is to bring friends back together and have some fun playing “expansive” rugby – and this tournament delivered!
Sevenoaks Wanderers kicked the event off against the Blackheath Academy and from the start both sides showed what immense talent lies in wait for the clubs in years to come.
Having decided that a non-contested platform was called for both sides opted for a running rugby style that only young people are capable of! The standard of rugby was superb with Oaks managing to secure a winning start. The whole day produced some superb highlights and in this game it came from young Oaks prop Jack “Moose” Holden who found himself in open space with half of the pitch still to cover. Off he went at a deceptive pace, harried all the way by one of the Blackheath backs. Despite the tenacious attempts to tackle him Moose repeatedly fended his opponent to dot down under the posts to rapturous applause.
Next up were Tonbridge Juddians versus Heathfield and, despite having smaller squads in terms of numbers, both sides put on some dazzling running rugby with the lead changing hands at least four times. Eventually the Heathfield side, comprised mainly from their 2015 National Plate winning squad, got the winning try in a game of superb standards. Unfortunately for TJs the luck of the drawer meant they were straight back on to take on the 25 man Sevenoaks squad and as tiredness and a couple of injuries kicked in the young Oaks were able to pull away for another win.
With Heathfield dispatching Blackheath in the next game the organisers consulted the players and coaches and decided that the final group games would become the Cup and Plate finals.
In the Blackheath v TJs game we were entertained by two more magic moments both involving immense displays of skill from big guys who were both, surely, forwards. As a TJs attack in midfield looked like it was running out of steam a TJ's forward was tackled but managed to flip the ball out of the back of his hand to a team mate who cantered to the line to score a superb try to much applause from the appreciative crowd.
Not to be outdone on the Outrage-Ometer a Blackheath ball carrier faced with 3 resolute TJs defenders in front of him slid a precision kick through that Lionel Messi would have been proud of. The ball bounced perfectly up into the arms of the outside back who went over for another superb score.
Blackheath held on to win the game which was played in a superb spirit as TJs squad was reduced to a few fully fit and an equal number of walking wounded – a heroic performance which their club will be rightly proud of.
The final game between the Oaks Wanderers and Heathfield was a high quality affair that became the tournament final. Oaks' big squad posed a selection problem for Coaches Bates and Fotheringham that Heathfield didn’t have to consider, so it was decided that Oaks would field two teams and see what happened. An early Wanderers score looked promising for the hosts but Heathfield were a very good outfit with real gas out wide and they hit back with two well taken tries to take the half time lead.
Oaks came very close to the equalising score before the Sussex boys pinched a well worked try which began with a turnover on their own line. With a mountain to climb now the cavalry came on and the home side soon scored but missed the conversion as the clock ticked down. Both sides then managed to score a try apiece but Heathfield, a very tight bunch of former team mates, held on for a deserved victory and claimed the regal (some may say “bling”) trophy which rivals the Champions League one for its majestic splendour!
Whenever you put a group of young men together in a sporting environment asking them not to worry about the result is to misunderstand human nature, however our thanks go to the coaches of the competing teams for ensuring that the watch word was fun and for encouraging the players to be expansive even if/when it lead to mistakes. Clubs face a tough time in maintaining adult playing numbers and we have all seen dozens of our young players lose touch with their club once university and other attractions take over so the Prodigals Cup is our attempt to put a tournament into the calendar of these young people that will be fun and keep them connected to their clubs.
We have already scheduled the 2018 event for Easter Sunday April 1st and we aim to have at least 8 clubs represented in that one. Let’s hope we can make that happen.