THE 70th running of the Old Penarthians Seven-a-Side tournament took place last Saturday at Cwrt-y-vil Playing Fields.

The lead up to the weekend had been wet with rain falling on most days but tournament organiser Stuart Munro’s prayers were answered when he woke up on the morning of the event with blue skies overhead.

The forecast was good and whilst there was a likelihood of a fair breeze the playing conditions would be ideal under foot for the players and the spectators may have to wear an additional tee-shirt.

The attraction of seven-a-side rugby was also testament to the many hundreds of spectators who turned up to support an event that is an integral part of the Old Penarthians season.

The spectators were entertained throughout the afternoon with some excellent Sevens rugby played at great pace with tremendous skill.

Leading up to the event the organisers had already decided that the traditional date for the event on the third weekend of May had to change to avoid a clash with an extended WRU league programme so the 8th June was the date determined.

The late withdrawal of teams in previous years also led the organisers to concentrate their efforts in finding ten committed teams who specialised in the seven-a-side format of the game.

This seemed to have been a successful tactic only for Glantaf Goats, four-times previous winners, to withdraw on the eve of the tournament.

Another decision by the organisers to arrange the teams in two pools did however mean that the competing teams were still guaranteed at least three matches so the withdrawal was manageable.

In the end the tournament was based on two pools comprising respectively five and four teams. Pool A comprised Carmarthen Warriors, Bowmen, Old Penarthians, Function SFR and Wales Deaf.

Pool B contained Voyagers, Ponty Butchers, Penarth Bearbacks and PC Allstars.

It was also a pleasure for Old Penarthians to host the inaugural Women’s Seven-a-side tournament.

This was a new venture for the club which recognises the growing importance of female participation in a sport that for so long has been a male bastion.

The skills exhibited by the players highlighted how quickly the women’s game has developed and that the entertainment value matched that of the men’s games

The invited teams who participated in the tournament were Ponty Butchers, Pontyclun Falcons, Llandaff North and Wales Deaf.

To accommodate the two events that were integrated throughout the afternoon the tournament started at the earlier time of 12.30pm with an impeccably received minute’s silence for Club stalwart, John Ratcliffe who recently passed away.

John had served the club as a player and administrator for more years that can be remembered and he was a member of the first team to win the Sevens in 1950.

The first match on the main pitch featured last year’s runners-up, Old Penarthians, playing against Bowmen.

Unfortunately, Bowmen proved too strong for John Patterson’s charges and ran out winners by 24 points to 5. The Old Pens try being scored by Rory Bodina.

This was followed by a match between last year’s winners, Ponty Butchers and newcomers to the event Penarth Bearbacks.

This is a team of London based Penarth exiles who have combined to play Sevens mainly in the English southeast to renew friendships based around rugby.

Ponty Butchers won 49-5 scoring seven tries.

Then came the historic moment of a first women’s match in 70 years with Pontyclun Falcons playing Llandaff North. Both teams boasted the presence of Wales international players but it was the Falcons who came out on top by 29-15.

The remaining pool matches were spread across the two pitches and the overall running of the event was smoothly managed by official announcer Tony Crimp and his assistant Jeff Norman with indebted thanks to Ken Shaw on pitch 2 for his record keeping of match results and scorers that ensured the big crowd were aware of the ongoing progress of the tournament from the pitch away from the main hospitality area.

This was again a great success under the stewardship of Rod Hill and David Chandler and the many guests were entertained not only by the rugby but also the food and drink.

Back on the pitches the rest of the Pool games progressed generally as expected with the strongest teams in Pool A being Ponty Butchers and Voyagers and in Pool B Warriors and Bowmen.

In Pools A Old Penarthians did record the joint highest points score of the day with 49 unanswered points against Wales Deaf with 1st XV players Chris Poole, Fearghas Gough, Dan watts and Nathan Facey all scoring points.

Wales Deaf were unfortunately without a win during the afternoon but did record a try in their match against Function SFR through Sam Jukes.

In eventually came down to the last match of the pool to decide who would appear in the cup final and who would go forward to the Plate Final when Warriors competed against Bowmen.

The match was one of the most evenly contested of the afternoon and after an early lead to Warriors through Arthur Lennon, Bowmen took the lead through a try and conversion by Jordon Coxley.

Liam Hutchings restored the Warriors lead by half time with a try and conversion of his own.

The half-time score of 12-7 to the Warriors was evened up by a George Gladding try, but a Dominic Williams try and Arthur Lennon conversion saw Warriors home by 19-12.

Pool B also came down to a shoot out between the group's best sides when Voyagers played Ponty Butchers.

At half time Voyagers led through tries by Jonathan Phillips and Rhys Lewis but Ponty struck back with tries by Marcus Jones and Dan Howells.

It was however to be Voyagers day with a Rhys Williams try and a Chris Morgan conversion for a 17-12 victory.

The women’s pool games saw Ponty Butchers Ladies dominate throughout which was perhaps not unsurprising as they were represented by a full set of Welsh internationals. Pontyclun emerged as the best of the rest winning two of their matches against Llandaff North and Wales Deaf.

It meant that Ponty Butchers progressed to the final where they played the Falcons. The final was a slightly more one-sided event than their initial pool stage game and the Ponty side eased to a 56-0 victory scoring eight unanswered tries.

Both teams however were delighted to have reached the final but it was the Ponty Butchers captain who received the Helen Norman Cup from Jeff Norman directly after the final whistle. Jeff Norman also presented the inaugural Player of the Tournament trophy to Ffion Lewis who during the afternoon had scored six tries and fourteen conversions in a very impressive display.

The next match on the main pitch was the Jubilee Plate Final between Ponty Butchers and Bowmen.

This was again a one-sided contest with Ponty winning by 33-0. Ashley Norton showed his strength and pace scoring two tries with James Gohan also scoring two and Lawrence Thomas the other. Chairman Jon Vaughan presented the teams with their prizes after the match but was not able to hand over the Plate itself as the previous winners Preseli BaaBaas had not returned the trophy. This will be rectified by next year.

The last match of the afternoon was therefore the cup final played between Voyagers and Carmarthen Warriors.

After an evenly contested opening period it was Voyagers that started to dominate and a half time score of 19-0 with tries by Steff Andrew and Chris Morgan (2) was not to be overhauled by the Warriors. Further Voyagers scores went to Chris Williams and Zac O’Driscoll before a late consolation try to Warriors gave a final score of 31-7

The Roy Churchill Cup was therefore presented to the Voyagers captain by Old Penarthians chairman Jon Vaughan with the Brian Joseph Player of the Tournament awarded to Arthur Lennon of the Warriors who during the afternoon had scored seven tries and none conversions and narrowly won the award from Chris Morgan of Voyagers.