St Joseph’s rugby festival is big success, as Hampton lift main prize
In the end, St Joseph’s College were unable to replicate the glory of 2010 and 2013, where the hosts won the Cup final, but there were plenty of positives to take at the conclusion of the 29th annual rugby festival, at the Ipswich school.
Hampton were worthy winners of the Cup, defeating RGS High Wycombe 8-5, in a close final that resembled the complexion of the overall tournament, while Denstone College won the Plate, which is contested after a competition between the teams that finished third and fourth in their groups on the opening day.
The majority of the games were close, the Ipswich-based hosts, who ended up in the Plate as a result of their inferior try count on day one, winning, losing and drawing two games apiece.
The event certainly captured the imagination, both far and wide, a total crowd of around 2,500 over the two days being complemented by what is thought to have been more than 50,000 views on the College’s Internet streaming system, which was broadcasting the games live.
St Jo’s got off to a good start, defeating Eastern Counties Barbarians, 12-0 in their opening pool game, before drawing 0-0 with Solihull and losing 19-0 to eventual champions Hampton, who were to go on to concede one try in the whole of the competition, and that was during the very last play of the final.
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St Jo’s finished third in their pool and went on to do the same on the second day as they pursued glory in the Plate competition, losing to St Peter’s RC High School (Gloucester), 12-7, before defeating Gordon’s School 31-0 and finishing with a 7-7 draw against QEGS (Wakefield).
Reflecting on the tournament, the college’s director of student recruitment and events, Mark Patterson, said: “It was a fantastic weekend, the live streaming of the games and the big screens, showing the games and the World Cup matches were a big success, and we were quite fortunate with the weather, with just a bit of drizzle on the Sunday afternoon.
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He added: “The (St Jo’s) boys did really well and although it did not quite go their way this year, we still have a good side.
“This year we are not quite at the lofty heights of some of our past teams that have blossomed some superstars, but we won one, drew one and lost one on the first day and only went into the Plate competition because we had not scored enough tries.
“Our biggest defeat was by three tries to nil against the eventual winners, Hampton, and they won the tournament at a canter. They were deserving winners and they only conceded one try during the whole of the tournament, which was in the final play of the final.
“What the (St Jo’s) boys gave on the pitch was fantastic, and seven or eight years ago, when we sometimes struggled to win a game, we would have bitten your hand off if we were offered two wins and two draws from six games.”
New director of rugby, Anthony O’Riordan meanwhile, was fulsome in his praise of his team and the tournament overall.
“We have been with the boys now for six weeks so we have to be realistic,” he said.
“We set out to do our best and the boys did myself and themselves credit.
“It wasn’t just a case of being one-hit wonders at the tournament, we want to create a conveyor belt of great talent and well grounded individuals for the long-term here.”
He added: “The event was incredible and it’s a testament to a relatively small independent school that they can stage it so successfully each year and attract the best school teams from around the country.”