Future Hope hold on to book their place in Calcutta Cup Final
1 August 2007 15:14pm
Whilst the global rugby scrum moves towards France for this autumn's Rugby World Cup, rugby is flourishing in Kolkata, one of its first outposts. Perhaps the Indian RFU would take credit, but they are a world away in Mumbai. For all the money the IRB invests into Indian rugby, very little filters down to the Club game.
Facilities are the preserve of the sports clubs, while coach and referee development is only for the few. So to see rugby in Kolkata flourish in these circumstances is encouraging. The players are not all middle class professionals or members of the elite sports clubs; in Kolkata rugby players are drawn from all sections of the community.
The Calcutta Cup semi-finals, played last Saturday (28th July) were testament to this. The first semi-final saw Future Hope Harlequins play the Armenian Sports Club; street kids up against the descendants of merchants. No quarter was given by either side and this was as compelling a rugby match as you could wish for; the brawn of the Armenians against Future Hope's expansive play.
With around 600 people lining the touchlines the atmosphere was fantastic, but in terms of quality Indian rugby has some way to go and this was true of this encounter. The experience of the Future Hope Harlequins told as they absorbed the early Armenian pressure, before a sweeping handling move was well finished to take them into the lead. Before to long, with Armenian fighting spirit never in doubt, they had struck back and went in front. The game ebbed and flowed throughout the first half, but with a penalty try being awarded to Future Hope just before the interval, they headed into half-time 12-7 ahead.
The half-time whistle gave a welcome rest for both teams, with the temperature edging 90 degrees. Future Hope quickly stretched their lead after the re-start with a well taken converted try. True to form, the Armenians quickly closed the gap with three points from a penalty.
A try from either side took the score to 24-17, with the Armenians refusing to give up as they repeatedly pounded the Future Hope line. The referee then intervened by showing a yellow card that reduced Future Hope to 14 men. However, like a boxer on the ropes, the Future Hope defence held out and at the final whistle the relief was clear for all to see.
The Armenians presence in the tournament has really added to the competition. So too has the continued growth of the Jungle Crows, who were only founded three years ago. Coached by Future Hope 'graduate' Sanjay Patra, the Crows epitomise rugby's spirit; street mechanics, joiners, street children and the odd ex-patriot create a team spirit second to none.
Then to the Calcutta Cricket and Football Club, perhaps the guardians of rugby in Kolkata, thanks in part due to their outstanding facilities but also as a result of the many years of experience amongst their ranks. The CCFC has a long history in the Calcutta Cup, winning the trophy many times and after beating the Jungle Crows (20 -14) in the other semi-final, they will be keen to win again this Saturday (4th August).
And so to the final; Future Hope Harlequins against CCFC for the Calcutta Cup - for both teams this is their rugby Everest. Like their rugby playing cousins the world over, playing with your mates is what makes the sport special; the sense of achievement and the determination to put setbacks behind you.
In Kolkata, far away from the global rugby circus, the game is played with no less passion or enthusiasm - just wait for this Saturday!
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.