2013 National Pub Sevens at Harpenden RFC

Final of the Main Competition

British Army 29 Deutschland 10

The Cup Winners - British Army with Cup Sponsor Jo Singleton.  Photo courtesy Anglo-WelshImages.co.uk

Should anyone doubt the increasing interest in 7-a-side rugby (7s), a visit to the National Pub 7s at Harpenden RFC would have altered that view. Despite a late dropout or two on the day, there were over 40 teams in the competition and that is nine up on the previous year.

This time, there was an added interest in the fact that more teams from mainland Europe had shown a willingness to take part, an indication that soon this form of rugby will become an Olympic sport. Two international sides from Italy and Germany played their part with Deutschland reached the main competition final and Italy the quarter-final. Additionally, sides from further afield such as Nigeria and Barbados attended.

Italy's contingent included International Kayne Robertson. It was the squad's first visit to Harpenden. Coached by the former England 7s captain, Andy Vilk, and managed by Orazio Aracio a full International with 38 caps and appearances at the Rugby World Cups in South Africa (1995) and England (1999) their team initially gave the eventual winners, the British Army, a scare. Vilk was optimistic about the future confirming that the spur was, in fact, the 2016 Olympics and added that many more countries were now testing the water, Holland being one.

  Photo courtesy Anglo-WelshImages.co.uk

Deutschland, the national side from Germany, boasts no stars but impressed when it reached the final of the main competition. Coached by Manuel Wilhelm, the Germans drew on the experience of Wilhelms 15-a-side career. "We have only students and a couple of soldiers playing for us." said Wilhelm, who started out just a few months ago with a grant of Euro 75,000 from the government in recognition of our attempt to qualify for an Olympic place in four years time.

The day began in a drizzle of rain but this didn't dampen the atmosphere. The ground had been prepared to a very high standard by Guy Richardson and his team of volunteers and drew many favourable comments from the participants. As one would expect, there was much to admire about the fitness of these athletes. One who impressed was Nigeria's wing, Dj (pronounced Deejay) Mshelia until he tweaked a hamstring. One to watch for the future, he also has a colleague who can clock 10.6 for the 100 metres.

Before arriving at the main final, the afternoon temperature rose with the entrance of the White Hart Marauders around 4pm led by their 40-plus year-old captain, ex-Army and Cumbrian, Howard Graham. This team is a regular attendee at the GB Series of 7s competitions and comprises former and current service personnel. Unusually, the Marauders didn't reach the semi-final stage showing that the standard of play is much higher than a few years ago. Their nemesis - the fabled British Army team -finished up as eventual winners scoring forty points. In the other semi, Deutschland beat the Apache team by a similar large amount i.e. 31-7. Thus a final between the British Army, who had found Italy a tricky customer in their quarter final match - where Italy's Borto Lussi had an impressive match - and Germany was set up.

Most of the punters were betting on the British Army having an easy win in the final, an idea planted into the minds of the cognoscenti straight away at the sight of Corporals Alex Swan and Zack Vakasawaqa pounding the turf like highly-tuned racehorses and James Cupmans ability at the lineout to secure good ball. Deustchland soon put a stop to that notion: tackling and harrying their opponents, until the Army started to show signs that rumours of their invincibility were outdated, out of the blue, a wayward pass was intercepted by wing Phil Szczesny - giving the underdogs a lead of 7-0 after only a few minutes of play. Now we were on for an exciting finale to the day.

The Army is a dangerous opponent when attacked; using their superior know-how in the forwards, possession became more frequent and a well-worked try from Swan after six minutes, converted by Peckham, meant that by half-time the teams were level at 7 apiece.

The second half proved to be a further lesson in strength and fitness as the Army started to exert their physical presence over their much younger opponents. Try as they might, Deutschland didn't have enough power up front. It wasn't through lack of skill of their runners: in that department, until near the end, they were equal to the task where, for example, fly half Marvin Dickman was able to hold his head up high in this illustrious company.

  Photo courtesy Anglo-WelshImages.co.uk

Unfortunately, fatigue set in and a score by Vukinavanua one minute from kick-off proved ominous. Two further tries from Komoyias and Tamatawale, all converted by Vakasawaqa, were enough to secure a deserved win. Deustchland replied towards the end with one more try from Szczesny another player to watch for in the future - but were a beaten team by then.

As a final thought, it has to be said that to run an event of this scale, volunteer helpers are vital and necessary. The organisation on the day was superb and a lot of that is down to the Chairman and his committee. In particular, Bob Barltrop with his team of communicators was responsible for much of this success. Additionally, the referees, car park attendants, ground staff, pitch marshals, bar staff, pig roasters, website manager, and, of course, Senor Evans and his Paella Stall - all deserve a big Thank You. And, last but not least, we thank the spectators without whom this event would lack the atmosphere so engaging on a Sunday Bank Holiday afternoon.

Other Winners:

Winners of the Plate:

Sun's Out,Guns Out 34 - Old Columbans 12

Winners of the Barrel

RAF Spitfires 38 - Flying Lizards 5

The Barrel Winners - RAF Spitfres with HRFC President Peter Danby.  Photo courtesy Anglo-WelshImages.co.uk