Bath Hawks soar to dramatic success at first UK universities Touch tournament
The University of Bath hosted the first ever UK Touch tournament specifically for universities on Saturday 15th March. Seven teams from six universities, with over 70 players and 7 referees taking to the pitches with great enthusiasm as the group games began.
First games started and one of the hosting Bath teams, the Hawks, beat Southampton 10-2 while UEA overcame Bristol 8-4. Following this were some competitive matches which pleased the spectators. Surrey drew to Loughborough 6-6, Bath Panthers narrowly overcame Bristol 7-5 and Bath Hawks clinched victory over Surrey 6-5.
The morning was a smooth affair with excellent refereeing, an excellent standard of Touch and the blue skies making it enjoyable for all. Lunch provided the opportunity to check the scores and establish the ranking in each group. Bath Hawks and Bath Panthers topped the 2 groups with Surrey and UEA coming in 2nd place respectively.Southampton, Bristol and Loughborough narrowly missed out a place in the Cup and played a round robin format after lunch which saw some competitive results leading to an interesting finish. This resulted in Loughborough winning the round robin and Bristol and Southampton coming in 2nd and 3rd respectively.
The Cup draw saw slightly lower scoring games. Could it be due to the added pressure, better defence maybe? Your guess is as good as ours, but there was some cracking Touch being played!
Bath Panthers played the very fast Surrey team and Bath Hawks took on UEA. The Panthers threw everything at Surrey in a close-fought game, with Surrey’s defence proving tough to break; then with a couple of break-away touchdowns, Surrey progressed into the final winning 5-3. UEA were also a fast team and the Bath Hawks had to work hard to crack their defence, but the Hawks’ tight defence meant they kept UEA to zero and also progressed into the final winning 5-0.
The play-off for third and fourth place was between the Panthers and UEA, a rematch from the group stages. This was a display of flair, speed and money balls; the Panthers ended up victors winning 5-1 and meaning they took 3rd place and UEA took 4th. This put the standing, in order of third to seventh, as Bath Panthers, UEA, Loughborough, Bristol and Southampton. All was to play for in the final.
With all other games finished, a big crowd gathered by the side of the pitch for the spectacle. A game of catch up, with Bath claiming the first touchdown and Surrey claiming the next 2, and eventually taking the score to 3-2 to Surrey at half time. The second half was very tense with lots of running, interlinking and flair play from both sides. Bath Hawks claimed the only touchdown of the second half, resulting in a score of 3-3 on the full-time whistle.
A drop-off in the final, who could have predicted this? Down to 5v5 and Surrey had the tap, after 1 touch they used their renowned speed around the outside to claim what they thought was the winning touchdown, but this is touch, there is the right of reply rule which meant that the Bath Hawks had 6 touches to score if they wanted to stay in the contest. Four touches down and the space appeared on the right wing with one of the quickest players from the Hawks diving at the line to put the Hawks back into the match!
Now it would be sudden death, each team would drop a player to make it 4v4 and Surrey had the tap. On the 4th touch the referee called a touch-and-pass, a quick turnover meant that Bath Hawks could gain a lot of field position. Ten meters out, a late cut followed by a ball out to the Hawk’s female winger to dive into the corner for the win!
The dramatic end was the cherry on top of a great day in the sun (mostly). A huge thank you must go to the referees for doing so well on running the tournament on the day and keeping all games so well controlled. The refereeing team also made it very clear this was their best tournament in terms of player behaviour and accepting the ref’s decision. Congratulations to Bath Touch for winning and becoming the 1st National Touch champions for universities, and congratulations to all teams for providing such a great level of touch, making the day so enjoyable for all involved.
Video highlights of the event: