THIS Saturday, May 17, Old Penarthians host the 65th consecutive season of their seven-a-side tournament.
This tournament is one of the most constant items in the local rugby calendar and it is hoped that large crowds will turn up at Cwrt-y-vil Playing Fields, St Marks Road, to watch the highly competitive competition. The club maintains strongly that it is the oldest surviving Sevens tournament in Wales and it is a fact of which the club is rightly proud.
The tournament started in 1950 as the ‘brainchild’ of then honorary secretary Bill Whittaker, and it has traditionally been competed for on the third Saturday of May every year since. There have been a few exceptions forced on the event by the timing of the WRU Cup Final and the extension of the league season but this year tradition returns.
The tournament was initially played at the Penarth County School and it remained the home of the event until 1963, with one year’s sabbatical to Cogan in 1951. In May, 1964, the event was the first function to be held at the newly completed clubhouse in St Marks Road, which, at the time, was devoid of furniture or fittings, and members satisfied the thirst of the spectators by pulling pints from casks set up on trestle tables.
The tournament format sees the first round winners progress into the next round of the Main Trophy Competition, whilst the losers continue their efforts in the Plate Competition. The remaining knock-out rounds decide the winners of both competitions.
The inaugural winners were Old Penarthians and the most successful side in the tournament has been Caerphilly GSOB, with nine victories from 13 finals. Last year saw a first victory in the event for the Welsh Charitables who fought off the challenge from four-times winners Glan Taf Goats. The final score was 31-12.
In the Golden Jubilee Plate Final, the home team, managed by Chris Poole, won a slightly one-sided final against Cardiff Schools OB 47-17. It is hoped that the Old Penarthians can advance to the same stage this year but this time in the main competition.
There is also a Player of the Tournament Trophy, initiated in 1974, and awarded to the player who has made the biggest impact on the day. The first winner was Neil Collins, of St Josephs. The only players to have won the award twice are David Bishop, of Old Illtydians, and Matthew Maclean, of Glan Taf. Last year’s recipient was Rhodri Davies, of the Welsh Charitables.
The 16 invitation teams that compete have traditionally been based on the old school network in the South Wales area, rather than on specific rugby clubs. Nevertheless, changing times have reduced the availability of the 'Old School' entrants and the competition would not exist without new sides.
It is, therefore, good to see Cardiff Baby Blues return to the event as well as English team Corsham. There are also three teams from Welsh speaking academic institutions each seeking bragging rights as the most successful rygbi team in Caerdydd and Sir Morganwg
This year the invited teams have been drawn as follows: Glan Taf Goats v Wales Deaf 7s; Cardiff & District 7s v Cardiff Schools OB; Llandovery College OB v Jolly Sailors; Dinas Powis v Caerau Ely; Voyagers v Welsh Charitables; Old Penarthians v Hen Fois v Fro Morganwg; Cardiff Baby Blues v Meibion Plasmawr; Old Cantonians v Corsham RUFC.
As usual the Sevens tournament kicks off at 2pm, with the final of the main competition due to start at 6.30pm. Entrance to the field will be by programme which can be purchased on the day, priced at £2. Ample car parking is also available at the ground for a cost of £4 for which two match day programmes will be provided.
This year, prior to the main competition starting, there will be an exhibition tag match between two teams from the Old Penarthians U6 development squad and there will be also be an exhibition game between the squad members of the multi-tournament winning U7 team.