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Depth of competition the hallmark of 2022 opener

The Men’s and Women’s National Touch Series (MW NTS) got underway with a competitive weekend in Oxford.

The sun shone on the Elite teams on Saturday afternoon, and the sport’s traditional powerhouses came to the fore once again to set out their stall for the season.

On the Men’s side of the day London Scorpions showcased their all-court game with a clinical performance in the Cup final win over NQ Rebels. Dominant wins over London Eagles (8-2), Cambridge (11-4) and Hot Custard (9-1) had seen the Scorpions progress as the number one seed, and while Rebels were also undefeated their wins over Wigan Warriors and Raptors were joined by a draw against Galaxy London to make them the second-ranked team.

Scorpions took their morning form into the final, with Dom Tripp on fire to set up a number of spectacular tries on the way to a 9-4 win.

However few of these were as eye-catching as the long-range efforts scored by NQ Rebels’ Women’s team in their winner-take-all Cup pool match against London Eagles.

Both teams had beaten London Scorpions in the afternoon round-robins which decided the destination of the Cup, these three having topped their morning pools. And it was Rebels who took the initiative, Jo Devine, Danielle Evans and Georgina McKavanagh all scoring long-range tries on the way to a 7-3 win, which extended their momentum from the 2021 MW NTS campaign.

Other winners on Saturday were Galaxy London and Old Wesley, who took home the Men’s Plate and Bowl respectively, with Nottingham and Cambridge winning the Women’s Plate and Bowl. Zan Hudson (London Scorpions) and Matt Maynard (Cambridge) were the day’s MVPs.

Sunday belonged to Revolution’s Women and PFT’s Men, who won the Cup titles in memorable fashion.

Revolution came up against Oxford in the Women’s final, with the players from both teams very familiar with each other from regional training and regular club friendlies alike. So it was little surprise that it was a tight affair from beginning to end, with a 2-2 full-time score becoming 3-3 after the first two minutes of extra time.

The 3-v-3 period continued with end-to-end action, with constructive attack nullified by dedicated defence, and while there were a number of England Senior and Masters players on show it was 15-year-old Cara Edwards who proved the difference, her match-winning score adding to her earlier effort in extra time to win her team the Cup.

The Men’s Cup final was no less competitive, even if the final score was somewhat more comfortable for PFT, who had to withstand a second-half fightback from Chester Cheetahs.

PFT had squeaked past London Scorpions in the semi-final with a late try, who themselves had only beaten Oxford in extra time in the quarter final. Chester’s route to the final had gone through matches against Cheltenham and Bristol, and all these matches provided suitable preparation for a fast and furious final which PFT won 7-4.

Sunday’s other winners were Wigan Warriors Women, who won the Plate, and London Vipers Men, who took home their Plate. MVPs were Eloise Hillebrand (Thames Valley Vikings) and Jacob Scadden (Norwich Rebels), with Vicki Offland the MVR.

The Men’s and Women’s NTS heads to Burton-on-Trent for Round 2 on the weekend of May 14th and 15th, with the Development competition on the Saturday and the Elite on the Sunday.

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