Wow, what a great day!
The sun was shining, the Touch was flowing and we hosted the biggest national Touch trial that the UK has ever seen.
This annual tournament works 2 fold. 1, to increases player’s exposure across England to coaching, improve coaches skills and lift the standard of England Touch across the board. 2, to showcase the best players from each region and used as a basis for selection for the national squads open, senior and master’s sides.
Ben Powell, ETA technical Director, quoted, “The standard of competition was the highest we have seen in both the Men’s and Women’s division at National level, and throughout the day, the closely fought victories and gripping draws illustrated that both titles were in the balance.”
In the Women’s division, after 3 rounds the South East Sharks, North West Blades and the South East Taipans established themselves as ‘the teams to beat’, and indeed they were. The North West Blades went through the entire tournament undefeated, however they narrowly missed out on the final through a ‘touchdowns’ scored count-back. This saw the rivalry in Women’s division continue between 2 time winners, South East Sharks, and 2 time runner’s up, the South East Taipans.
The Women’s final was played at a frantic pace, and it was evident that quality of the Sharks were going to have to graft hard if they were going to match the vicious intensity the Taipans were playing at. Taipans ended up defeating the defending National champions 3-1 in what was a tremendous final.
Taipans captain Marnie Wills commented on their victory, by saying “we had absolutely nothing to loose, but so much to gain… so we just thought, lets leave everything on the pitch”.
In the Men’s division, the South East United team established themselves early as the team to beat, however their quality and composure was tested within the early stages of their first 2 games. The Midlands Men were, as usual, a very organised outfit and a well drilled team with a lot of talent on showcase and quickly established themselves as finals contenders with a clinical 5-2 victory over close rivals North West Blades.
In round 3 South East United were victorious in a great driving battle, and the North West Blades earned a crunching victory over the West Wildcats which was seen by many as one of the quickest games played all day. This set up Semi Final 1 between (2nd) Midlands Tigers V North West Blades (3rd) and Semi Final 2 (1st) South East United V West Wildcats (4th). South East United and the North West Blades were both victorious in their respective Semi Finals, and were due to meet in 17:00 final on field 1.
After a 1 minute silence in honour of the late legend Dennis Coffey and his immeasurable contribution to Touch around the world, the South East United Men and the North West Blades went to battle. The game was quick, and both sides were wasteful in line attack early on, however as the game progressed, so did the quality. In the end it was the South East United Men who ran out victors with a very clinical performance, 7 touchdowns to 3.
The Open Trial was coordinated by the national coaches and selectors. This was a huge success as players (with aspirations to be selected in the ETC14 and WC15 squads) who were not competing in the ‘Mini Touch-Nationals’ tournament went through drills and skills grids, followed by group games, to show off their skills!
All coaches involved in the trial commented on the impressive standard that was set, with many pushing themselves forward for England Squad Selection. Mike Roa (England M35 Coach): “I was really impressed with the depth of talent on display, right from the U18s to the Masters, those who were at the trial have a lot of potential”.
Gregg Cropper (ETA President) commented “I’d like to echo what Mike has said, the trials were a huge success and the players who trialled (in both the Nationals and Open Trials) were very impressive! As we look to find the next generation of Touch players, we were inundated with registrations from players vying for a spot in the elite programme. With well over 300 players at the event, it puts us in a great position to select the cream of the crop for next years international spots. A final thanks to all those who helped out behind the scenes and on the day!”
Men’s Division – South East United
Some stats from the day…
- All the players, who made it a huge success, it was great to see so many new faces amongst those returning to the fold.
- Regional leads and coaches for rallying their troops and making the competition the closest to date!
- All the national coaches/selectors for their attendance and valued input.
- The helpers/admin for their great behind the scenes work prior to and on the day of the event.
- The ETA medical team/physiotherapists for their attendance and safekeeping of players.
- Shelley and the referee team for their officiating on the day.
- Droitwich for hosting the event at their great facilities, I’m sure we’ll be back!