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The latest P7 graduates from Coleraine Rugby Club’s successful Mini section ended their mini careers on a high when they competed in this year’s prestigious Jaguar London Irish Five Nations Mini Rugby Festival in Sunbury last weekend.

Competing in the 31st year of the Festival’s history, over two thousand boys representing over 20 clubs from Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales and France played in atrocious weather on a challenging playing surface. Despite the disappointing weather, the Coleraine boys gave a great account of themselves both on and off the pitch.

Accompanied by parents, the 18 strong Coleraine squad and Coaches excelled by winning their section and reaching the semi final against a strong London Irish counterpart who proved just too strong to overcome. On route to the semi final the Coleraine lads dispatched first Abergavenny four tries to nil, followed by Farnham (three tries to one) and finally their old friends and rivals from Dublin Clontarf (one try to nil).

As the day progressed it was obvious that the incessant rain driven on at times by a chilled north easterly wind, was taking its toll on the pitches and players alike while at times the breakdowns resembled mud wrestling rather than a game of rugby. In between games, the boys took whatever shelter they could from both the London Irish Stadium and a conveniently placed food van, complete with a generator blowing out hot air for cold hands.

Both parents and Coaches watched as the team they had coached and nurtured for five plus years at Coleraine put on a tremendous performance of skilled rugby relevant to their age. The opposing teams were unable to handle Coleraine’s first up tackling and aggressive rucking while the backs ran the wet ball through hands well and over the score line. It would be unfair and pointless to pick out individuals as each boy played for the team, no doubt partly inspired by Ulster’s semi-final victory over Edinburgh the night before which was enjoyed by all on a big screen courtesy of their London Irish hosts.

Come their own semi-final, the famous blue shirts of Coleraine were virtually unrecognisable due to the mud as they took to the field against a physically superior fresh looking London Irish squad who looked as if they had spent the tournament to that point indoors given the cleanliness of their kit.

From the start the ‘Irish’ showed a level of rugby that left the Coleraine side feeling as if they were punching above their weight. Weighed down by a half pound of wet London clay on their backs and surrounded by a large partisan home crowd, the Coleraine boys struggled in the first half as London ran in four tries before the break. Cheered on by parents and encouraged by their Coaches, the boys from Rugby Avenue stepped up a gear and began to show signs of revival. With spirited flashes of good competitive rugby, Coleraine looked like they were going to make it hard for London but a hard day of battling through mud and against a very good rugby team was a game too far and the final whistle ended the tournament for the young Bannsiders. (London Irish went on to be defeated in the final by Blackrock from Dublin).

With weary, mud spattered faces, they left the field to a round of appreciative applause and the prospect of a welcome change of dry clothes. To a boy, the Coleraine team played out of their sodden socks as they prepared to leave London with a few more friends and admirers and a well earned summer break before continuing their post-primary rugby careers.

Some choosing to remain with Coleraine and move up into the Club’s U13s team next season while others will play for their prospective schools. All will look back on a tremendous experience at Coleraine where they learned to play a great team sport and make many friends. Thanks goes to all of the P7 Coaches and to the Mini Rugby Organiser/Convenors who voluntarily gave of their time week in and week out to develop young sportsmen for the future. Coleraine Rugby Club wishes all P7 players well for their future rugby careers wherever they end up.

P7 Coleraine Mini Rugby Squad at London Irish festival

Players: James Allen, Adam Bell, Callum Boorman, Anthony Christopher, Josh Conkey, Pierce Crowe, Jonah Lennox, Jonathan Lynn, Oscar Egan, Finlay Hutchinson, Jonathan McKee, Harry McLeish, Dillon McLennan, Luke Norris, Marcus Poskitt, Ben Scott, Daniel Steele, Patrick White Coaches: Mal Scott, Alan Crowe, Mark Lennox, Gary McKee Mini Rugby Convenor: Colin White.

If you are interested in joining the Mini Rugby at Coleraine simply watch the press and CRFC website for details for next season. Alternatively if you are aged 11-12 yrs on or after 1st July 2012 you might want to try rugby at Coleraine in the U13s Youth Section (see website for details on ages for U13s, U15s, U17s & U19s).