Whilst speculation about Harry and Pippa and the Royal Wedding continued to grip the nation, the sunshine combined with a carnival atmosphere set up a perfect marriage for a memorable bank holiday weekend of rugby.
Saturday saw two 2nd XVs from two top National League sides battle it out under clear blue skies and warm sunshine. The pitch was rock hard – and did lead me to ponder about abandoning the match – as any ref would do confronted with such hard conditions in mid-December!
However, both teams brushed aside any concerns and delivered an entertaining fast paced match. The home side (Black) blistered into a 17-0 lead with barely 10 mins on the clock as the away team (Gold) looked to be suffering from sun stroke. However, they quickly began to get back into their stride and scored three sublime tries in the first half (whilst conceding another one) to trail 24-17 at the break.
The second half sun began to take its toll and fatigue led to porous defenses for both teams. With less than 3 mins left in the game the score stood at 31-31 with a grand stand finish in the offing. Black capitalised on a Gold error to score in the corner to take a 36-31 lead. But with the final move of the game Gold created an amazing 4-1 overlap. However, the Gold 10 went into meltdown and gave an appalling pass that was telegraphed and snaffled up by the only defender who ran through unopposed to put the game out of sight and a well deserved home team win 43-31.
Sunday saw continued bright sunshine in the Cheshire countryside for the County Junior Cup Finals. Sadly, I am not sure the organisers have got the format for the competition absolutely right as three of the four matches were significantly one-sided, with the final I took charge of ending 48-0.
Monday was a long trip to the Midlands to referee the Premiership Academies tournament at Broadstreet RFC. All the England U16 and U18 coaches were present along with hundreds of parents and supporters. Effectively this is the selection stage for the England U16 sides.
The skill levels on show were remarkable. Notwithstanding that some of these 15 year olds presented imposing figures at 6″4 and above, the pace, passing and decision making was outstanding. It was quite exciting to be able to referee and work with the academies from Leicester, Northampton, Sale, Leeds, Worcester and Newcastle and I blew less penalties in three matches combined than the whole of Sunday’s one-sided cup final!
With so much talent on show and strong reports from the South-East v South West tournament there are some future England stars in the making.
With only three sevens tournaments left in the season for me, I am already looking forward to the summer break and some time without a whistle in my hand!