#TouchNationals bigger and better than ever
The weather in Cambridge didn't disappoint as regional teams travelled from across the country to take part in the annual Touch Nationals event..
One Leisure, St Ives, Cambridge was the venue for the second year running with the pitches in pristine condition looking green and lush in the beautiful August sunshine.
Bigger than ever!
The Touch Nationals was an even bigger event this year, not only accommodating the open divisions with 7 men's teams including an invitational appearance from the Middle East, and 6 women's teams, each battling it out for opens titles, but it also included mixed teams from developing regions to include Midlands Panthers, North East Raiders, South East Renegades, Southern Suns, with UAE also representing here as an invitational team.
3 x U18 teams take the stage
Fresh young talent was also on display with the U18s division which included Midlands Cubs, Northern Stars and the Southern Mavericks.
In the U18 category, where the matches were closely fought and draws had been the theme of the day, the only team having managed not to lose a game came out on top and it was the Midlands Cubs who celebrated their Top of the Table Status, winning the U18s division in their debut year.
The talent in this division was overwhelming and certainly puts the future of our open's divisions in good hands for years to come. Many of the players from the 3 regions will be donning their England kits as they play in the Junior Touch Competition next weekend in Nottingham.
Masters are back
Not to be outdone by new developing players, the Men's Masters were also in the mix with Midlands Storm, Northern Monkeys, South East Samurais and Southern Suns and an invitational appearance in this division also from UAE.
The SE Samurai were the favourites to win the final of the masters division having topped the table with a clear 6 points ahead of their contenders for a battle for the title.
Congratulations go to the Southern Samurais and their star studded team, taking the top spot in the 2015 masters division, beating the Northern Monkeys and displaying a convincing gold medal claim as they beat the Northern Monkeys 6-1 in a great final.
A new dawn, for the developing regions
This year saw the addition of the 'developing mixed' division, which saw 5 teams battle it out to be the inaugural winners of the new division.
The developing UAE mixed team had plenty to smile about and their trip across the waters wasn't in vein, as they kept a clean sheet winning 4 from 4.
Women's Open Division
Midlands Tigers were hoping to go one step further this year to claim the title of women's open champions after coming close last year and losing to South East Taipans in the 2014 final. Not to be underestimated, the female Taipans were there to prove to every other region that they were not to be reckoned with and after day one they had clocked up 3 wins with an impressive 34 touch downs and only conceding 2 scores in total which came from the hearty Northern Blades.
The Sharks were biting and back on form this year to secure their place in an exciting final as they tamed the Tigers and Wildcats and fought off the Saxons and Blades.
The Taipans rose victorious again with just 1 touchdown ahead of the Sharks to decide their fate, with a 2-1 win in an exciting final that saw them champions for a consecutive year.
Men's Open Division
The Men's open had some tightly fought games with the NW blades narrowly missing out on a place in the final just 2 points behind joint first place finishers.
The men's open was to be a repeat of the women's with the Taipans and Sharks topping the table after the pool games. The end result finished in favour of the Taipans once more, after a nail biting final and the scores 9-7 on the final whistle. They matched their women's claim to add to the South East Haul with a double men's and women's open win.
Were there any touchies anywhere this weekend not involved in this mammoth event? The Open Trials were also running alongside the Nationals. England selectors, clip boards at the ready, were fishing for any talent that may have slipped through the regional nets, as 30+ unknowns arrived in force to showcase their skills and their love of their sport.
Thanks to everyone for making it such an epic event. Those behind the scenes ensuring it all ran perfectly on the day, namely Ben Powell, Gregg Cropper and Kevin Hill. Thanks to those running things over the weekend who worked tirelessly, Shelley Grace and Ian Syder for arranging the referees, Cari Thorpe and Emma Knott and their medical team, who enabled players and referees alike to perform at their best during the competition.
Thanks also goes to all those regional leads, coaches, assistant coaches, managers and helpers along the way, who have also put in many hours in preparing their teams to compete in the best Touch we've seen in the UK for a long time!