To the beach - not to sunbathe but to play rugby

To celebrate the game of rugby sevens taking its place at the Olympics for the first time this year, West Wittering beach became the Copacabana for the day as part of the Chichester Festival of Rugby.

Sunday, 19th June 2016, 10:00 am
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 1:37 am
One of the Chichester teams who took part in the festival on the beach at West Wittering / Picture by Kate Shemilt

The event adopted the theme of When in Rio and Chichester RFC hosted one of the festival’s big events on Saturday, their annual beach bugby tournament.

Teams from across East and West Sussex, Hampshire, Middlesex, Berkshire, Wiltshire attended and used their imagination to come dressed accordingly. Teams did not disappoint – with carnival dresses, 80s haircuts, lots of sun cream and teams embracing the colorful nature of Brazil.

Despite a damp start, the weather also got into the spirit of things and eventually the sun shone through. Spectators and families were treated to a very entertaining event.

The event sees mixed teams, young and old, play against each other – though many of the adult teams came unstuck when playing some of the juniors.

The festival is structured so teams play in pools with the top two at the end of the pool progressing to the cup competition and the bottom two contesting the plate.

Going into the cup were Newbury U16 A; Midhurst U16; Knight Fencing A; Knight Fencing B; U16 Dads & Lads A; U16 Dad s & Lads B; Newbury U14s A; Newbury U14s B; Mucky Ducks (Staines RFC); Newbury U16 B; Chichester U8 Dads A and Chichester U8 Dads B.

Through to the plate were The Downs Family (Midhurst RFC); Pulborough U15 Girls A; Pulborough U15 Girls B; Worthing Forever; Green Beans (Horsham RFC); Where’s Ben; Young Guns (Devizes Ladies); Old Guns (Devizes Ladies); Pulborough U13 Girls A; Pulborough U13 Girls B; Worthing Sambas (Worthing Ladies) and Worthing Carnival Queens (Worthing Ladies).

The plate was won by The Downs Family, who beat Green Beans in a close final.

The cup was won by Newbury U16 A, who beat Knight Fencing A.

Chichester RFC thanked all the volunteers and referees who gave up their time to make the event possible and the West Wittering Estate for allowing it to take place. Organisers hope to see everyone back next season.

Held on Friday as part of the festival was the British Colleges under-19 touch rugby event, also at West Wittering.

The day was well attended with teams coming from as far as Birmingham, Wales and Milton Keynes.

Organiser Mark Bonar from Chichester College said: “The irony of this event is it’s almost more popular in the midlands than it is locally. When I set up the event eight years ago, it was to be an end-of-year fun event between the local schools. However word about this competition really seems to have spread – via the M40 – and we get loads of colleges travelling for hours to take part”.

A total of 24 teams of eight players took part in the national event and in the spirit of this fun, inclusive event, many who attended hadn’t played touch rugby previously – in fact there were a few players from Birmingham who had never been to a beach before.

In an email thanking the organisers, the coach from Milton Keynes said it was a ‘well-organised, friendly event hosted in the true spirit of the game’.

The event was kindly hosted and sponsored by West Wittering Estate, who allow students from across the UK to take part on their estate.

RFU representatives from Sussex and Surrey supported the event by officiating. They said the event was one which they looked forward to.

For the first time, the event was supported by soldiers from Thorney Island, who took down a light missile launcher and kit for players to look at, with the opportunity to ask the soldiers about life as serving personnel.

Bonar said: “I’m so grateful to all the organisations that support and make this event so successful – running an event like this is easy when you have a team of experts support you.

“Thanks to Chichester College for allowing me time to run this event and Ash Black Photography for covering the event so well.”

Many teams are already asking when the Chichester Festival of Rugby is taking place next year.

The rugby festival also involved a schools tournament at the High School on Friday, while still to come on September 4 is another City Walls pass, starting at the rugby club, passing down the park, around the city and back up to the club to score a try. Anyone is welcome to come along and participate.

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