RNRU Beach Rugby Festival Weymouth

As part of the wider Festival of Rugby, the community engagement side of RWC15, the RNRU hosted its second iteration of the Rugby Beach Festival in Weymouth.

Coming from far and wide, the 18 teams descended on the beautiful Dorset town to test their rugby skills on the unique surface of energy sapping sand. The rugby rule book was diluted down and games officiated by a large cadre of RN referees led by Geoff Howells (RNRU Referee Sec) in order that the teams could play expansive, open rugby. The tackling was hard, the running dynamic and the games strongly contested.

Played across 4 pitches the matches took the form of two halves of four minutes with a one minute turn around at half time. Substitutions were on a rolling basis and were sorely needed as the players toiled in the deep sand.

Some teams essentially playing a 15 aside style kept the ball in tight and sucked in the defence; the more slight teams used pace and guile to hunt for the small gaps and exploit them as they appeared. Avoiding the wide open space, consistently players ran straight lines into concentrated and determined defences. Big hits and a ferocious tempo were the order of the day early on and this remained the case until the quarter finals, where the ball was asked to do the work and the champagne rugby began to flow.

The event was a magnificent advert for the Royal Navy; great physical fitness matched commitment and endeavour typified by the steady flow of tourists and Weymouth locals who took their places in the stands. Fully briefed in proceedings by the garrulous Dave Wakefield (RNRU Community Rugby Coach), there were cheers and groans from the ever growing crowd as the tries were scored and the hits felt.

All the teams were worthy of note but two stood out for different reasons. The Royal Marine Band School of Music fielded a young, inexperienced but willing side. Rumours abound that when the invite to the Beach Rugby Festival arrived, the word ‘beach’ was all that was heard and unsurprisingly the uptake was huge! Representing Scotland, the sailors from HMS NEPTUNE arrived; to a man no-one could have been less than 100kg. Playing well in the pool matches, the ball was kept close and the tackling destructive.

Following some creative organisation from Ady Cherrington (Event Coordinator and RNRU Development Officer) all the teams headed into the knock phases with a Plate and Cup for the winning teams. The Plate final was contested by Commando Logistics Regiment and Commando Training Centre RM leading to the possibility of the Royal Marines having a Beach Rugby clean sweep. To CLR the spoils romping to a 5 tries to 1 win. With the stands brimming with support the four semi-finalists in the Cup stood primed. HMS SEAHAWK who had beaten HMS HERON in an all WAFU quarter final took on a pumped 30Cdo ‘A’ team with the Marines winning by the smallest of margins. The second semi saw HMS RALEIGH take on a combined HMS OCEAN and 1AGRM; again the differences between the teams was as thin as a grain of sand with the Kernow team edging the Amphibious boys.

So to the final; six long minutes per half with a quick two minutes at half time to suck in as much air as possible. HMS RALEIGH and 30Cdo stood ready. Unlike the pool matches there was significantly less attrition whether as an understanding on how to play in the sand had developed or they were just plain exhausted. The pace was still there and tries were scored at each end by both sides. A penalty on 30Cdo try line gave the marines the impetus with the clock ticking down for a final push and with the score deadlocked at 4 apiece, they crossed for a final try to the delight of crowd.

RNRU Weymouth Beach Rugby Festival Winners - 30Cdo.

This article would not be complete without expressing the RNRUs thanks to QinetiQ for sponsoring the event with Maritime MD, Sarah Kenny presenting the medals and cup alongside RNRU VP Rear Adm Keith Beckett. Sincere thanks also go to Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, who allowed a melee of sailors and marines to provide both tourists and locals alike with a fitting distraction in and amongst the ice creams and sand.

Watch this space for the RNRU’s return to Weymouth in 2016..

Article and images by J Campbell-Baldwin