Youngsters from Bognor RFC played a part in creating history as they participated in the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup, hosted by Harlequins.
Since being launched during the 2008-09 season, the nationwide event has seen more than 70,000 children take part.
This season sees the 10th anniversary edition of the event – the ‘testimonial season’ – with Harlequins hosting their festival in the shadow of Twickenham.
Bognor Panthers under-12s were one of more than 30 under-11 and under-12 teams in attendance, and even got the chance to strut their stuff in front of Harlequins players Dave Ward and Kyle Sinckler.
While they missed out on the chance to attend next May’s Aviva Premiership Rugby Final, despite displaying plenty of skill and effort, 11-year-old Toby Hanks highlighted the benefits of the day.
“We were in London next to headquarters and were playing a tournament, after that we went to watch Harlequins play a match at the Stoop,” said the St Philip Howard Catholic School pupil.
“I really enjoyed it and that’s what matters – if everyone’s having a good time then that’s enough for me. I love rugby, I’ve been playing it since I was five, I just love it so much. Xbox isn’t healthy so this is better!
“I really like all the action, rucks, mauls, where you can push – I like pushing myself in rugby and helping everyone else, the teamwork.
“Some of the teams were really good, everyone’s really disciplined and loves the sport – you can tell that.
“It’s really nice to just watch people play the sport because they love it, it’s what rugby’s about, it’s not about the tries and all of that, it’s about the discipline and sportsmanship.”
Teams from across the county will compete at various festivals hosted by the 12 Aviva Premiership Rugby clubs this season, with the opportunity to earn a trip to the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final on May 26, where they will meet a Land Rover rugby ambassador, join in a Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup Parade at half time and hear which of them has won a club MVP award.
And despite missing out, Bognor did at least get the chance to rub shoulders with rugby’s elite in Sinckler and Ward, with the former admitting he had been impressed with what he had seen.
“Dave [Ward] and I came down to have a look at the local talent and it’s been a great day out,” said the England and Harlequins and British & Irish Lions prop.
“The main thing is enjoying it and you can see the kids are happy and it’s all about the sportsmanship of the game and playing it in the right way.
“You can see them all doing three cheers for each other and everyone I’ve spoken too, whether they’ve lost three games or won three games they’re having a good time.
“It’s about coming out on a Saturday or Sunday and giving it your best, if you win you win, and if you lose so be it, if you gave it your all and had a good time – you’ve got to make memories with your friends.
“Without the grassroots rugby there’s no elite level – if you speak to any guy in any professional team they all started at grassroots level.”
* Land Rover is celebrating its ‘Testimonial Season’; ten years of the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup. The national series of grassroots rugby festivals is testament to Land Rover’s continued support of grassroots rugby through its ‘We Deal In Real’ campaign. Follow @LandRoverRugby #WeDealInReal