Etihad Curtain Raiser Cup Qualifiers for 2008/9 Grand Finals
24 April 2009 16:19pm
Brighton RFC, one of last year's winners
It won't just be two teams battling it out for victory at The Twickenham Stoop tomorrow; before the main attraction of Quins V Newcastle kicks off at 3pm, 36 junior community teams will be looking for victories of their own.
This year's Etihad Airways Curtain Raiser Cup Grand Finals will signify the end of a monumental season long campaign. The competition has seen over 240 teams from over 65 clubs, ranging from U7-U12 and over 6,500 children, battle it out for the title of Etihad Curtain Raiser Cup Champions.
The teams have come from all across the South of England, including Essex, Surrey, Kent, Middlesex, Hampshire, Cambridgeshire, Berkshire and Sussex. It is a reflection of the quality of the programme that teams from as far flung as Northern Ireland, Jersey and Devon also choose to make the journey to The Stoop.
Associated clubs have had to endure some horrendous weather, which resulted in the tournament being played on a non match day for the first time in the event's history. Our friends from Belfast, in hindsight, should probably have chartered a plane as they will have been to the Stoop three times in order to get to today's finals.
There has been much blood, sweat and tears to win through this far and we hope that the spirit in which the games have been played to date, continues tomorrow.
A few words from Clubs taking part today….. Haywards Heath RFC U12s
While I have been playing with my teammates throughout the last seven brilliant years, I have learnt many strong points of our team. Some people are amazing at tackling, and some at running, but everyone has something to offer. These years of playing my favourite sport I have enjoyed greatly and my other teammates who have been with me then will know what it has been like
It all started in the Under 6's and although I can't remember that much about this year, I do remember playing a lot of bulldog at the end of every training session and then, a year later coaches shouting "Pass the ball!" to us, which meant throwing the ball over our head! In the Under 8's was our first big highlight, we won the West Sussex final and went on to play the East Sussex Finalists, Crowborough. After a long, hard match with extra time, it came to an unwanted draw. Therefore we decided to share the trophy and split the time with it. Since then, up into Under 12's, every year has been different and has brought new challenges. For instance, with introduction of contact in Under 10's, we have had to learn new skills and learn how to work more together as a team.
We have had some great successes but we have also had to learn how to cope with defeat, move on and improve. All in all, it's the playing that matters and in every tournament we have been to, we have tried our hardest and had a great time. I am proud to be the captain of such a great team made up of old friends and new talent. I am looking forward to the challenges youth rugby will bring next season.
Haywards Heath Under 12's Captain
Upminster Hawks Under 8's are one of four teams in the under 8 age group. Each team has played in the Curtain Raiser Cup this season. The Hawks are established as one of the best under 8 teams in Essex, losing a very narrow semi-final in the Essex festival to rivals, and opponents for today's finals, Southend. They have performed consistently well all season and are really excited about the finals day today. Win or lose they are sure to have a fun day and enjoy the event. Coached by Richard George and Ray Outen the ethos of the team is to enjoy the day and play as a team. Upminster Mini rugby section are pleased to be sponsored by Roomes Stores in Upminster.
Teddingtons U10 team became the Middlesex Champions for the fourth time in a row last month, retaining the trophy without conceding any tries for the second year running. Since the side started playing competitive rugby at U7 level they have won at least one major festival each season and last year played at Twickenham. The 2008/09 season has been particularly successful so far. On top of qualifying for the Grand Finals of the Etihad Airways Curtain Raiser Cup and running out top in the Middlesex championship, they've tasted festival victory at Sutton & Epsom and Chobham. A team that combines great discipline with no little flair the boys are looking forward to pitting their skills against the best sides around in the Etihad Airways Curtain Raiser Cup Final.
Sutton and Epsom Under 7 year group at the club have had several successes during their first year at a range of tournaments. Thus far, they have come away as tournament winners at two tournaments and losing finalists at a further two. While success is rightly measured in the main by wins, it should also be measured by the development and appreciation of the game and these children have come a long way. Their success and enjoyment thus far is down to enthusiasm and energy from the 40 boys and girls that regularly attend Sunday sessions and the nine coaches that have lead them so well. Training for the players has also been greatly enhanced and variety of experience increased by the support of David Caplin at R P Martins whose generosity has helped this group develop. This squad has not played a lot together as it is based around a mixed ability core, out to enjoy their early experience of the game.
Sevenoaks U7's squad have enjoyed a fantastic season this year. Not only have they managed to reach the last six of the Harlequins Curtain Raiser Cup but they have notched up 42 wins, six draws and only seven losses all season. Runners up in the cup at Crowborough, runners up in the cup at Old Colfeians, runners up in the shield at Worthing B, winners of the shield Worthing A and both teams entered into the Kent Festival comfortably topping their groups.
Rossyln Park U10's
"This is the first year that we have entered the Etihad tournament, and it is tremendously exciting to be playing in the finals today. It seems a long time since November when we played our first qualifying round, and we'd like to thank Quins and Etihad for providing the opportunity to play so much great competitive rugby, particularly against some clubs that we would not otherwise get the chance to meet. We are the Middlesex County runners-up this year, and of course, nothing would give us greater pleasure than to go one better in this tournament. We'll give it our best shot!"
Reeds Weybridge U9's
We have a thriving mini section with over 400 children playing rugby on a Sunday morning. The Under 9 age group has always been a strong one for the club, both in the fun and enjoyment had by the children, and the results achieved on the pitch. Semi finalists in last years Surrey A festival, this team were also joint winners of this years Guildford A festival in March.
Brentwood RFC U9's
The boys who are playing today represent a squad of 30 players who regularly turn up for training and matches at Brentwood RFC. Although we do not believe in splitting the squad into A teams and B teams, there are certain tournaments and matches where we will field our stronger players. This team recently won the Plate competition at Essex Festival without conceding a try throughout the whole competition. They missed out on the Cup competition through scoring less tries than Upminster with whom they drew 0-0 in the pool match. Whenever they have played together this year they have remained unbeaten and have only conceded 4 tries all year (2 of those in the semi-final versus Rosslyn Park).
Battersea Ironsides RFC U10's
Founded in 1995, Battersea Ironsides Minis is a relatively young club - It has enjoyed great success and growth across all age groups over the last 14 years. This season our under 10's finalists represent a total group of over 65 children.
Huge amounts of passion and commitment can be seen every Sunday morning from children, coaches and parents alike - this has translated into a highly successful season at home and, a fabulous experience for our kids, going on tour to France in February this year.
The Ironsides boys (and parents!) are tremendously proud and excited to be playing against some of the best teams in South East England at The Stoop. A superb finale to a superb season!
During week commencing 22nd April Harlequins will launch an innovative, new Membership Scheme which will replace the existing Season Ticket Holder Programme. Further details of the scheme will be announced in due course.