Berkshire RFU Sevens exceeded all expectations and only just fell short of claiming the County Sevens title at Esher Rugby Club on Sat 10th June 2017 with the runners-up spot to a more experienced Kent side with several National league players on show.
The Berkshire Sevens side were put together for this single inter-county tournament under the highly experienced Audley Lumsden (and Wayne Foncette) with the side being based around the Berkshire U20s in the region to maintain the momentum that they have built around the successful Berkshire U20 side that play in the U20s County Championships. This, as well as lower age players, was to provide a platform of growth within the Berkshire region as players work their way into 1st team squads within the region and national rugby ambitions.
The day was based around a round robin tournament where Berkshire would be up against, Sussex, Surrey, Essex and Kent.
Back Row: Mark Povey (Team Physio), Ben Harris (Maidenhead RFC), Louis Wolf (Reading Univ RFC), Levi Meek-Carter (Maidenhead RFC), Michael Etete (Reading Univ RFC), Lewis Bunce (Reading Univ RFC), Audley Lumsden (Coach), Wayne Foncette (Manager)
Front Row: Simon Mahon (Reading Uni RFC), Greg Brown (N/A), Ben Radford (Bracknell RFC), Kuziva Ndewere (Aberdeen Univ RFC), Dan Neal (Camberley RFC), Brendan Clarke (Reading Abbey RFC)
Berkshire Sevens v Sussex Sevens
First up in the day was Sussex, whose full County XV had recently beaten Berkshire in the senior County Championships. Berkshire got off to a flying start with Louis Wolf recovering the ball from kick-off and breaking through only to be hauled down just short of the line - but not before offloading to the 6ft 8in Michael Etete to go over for the first try. Berkshire were soon back in their stride and after some interplay by Sussex the ball came free for Kuziva Ndwere to score one of his 5 tries of the afternoon from his newly found scrum half position. Berkshire raced into 31-10 lead with two scorching long range efforts from Lewis Bunce (his 200m athletics background coming into play) but then took their foot off the gas allowing Sussex to score two tries coming back to 31-20 before completing the scoring in the final minute to make it 36-20 and a respectable start to the day.
Berkshire Sevens v Essex Sevens
Next up was to prove tough encounter against an equally youthful Essex side which also featured several of the national college sevens champion SEEVIC College side as well as several from National Div 3 side Southend RFC.
Berkshire again got into their stride quickly and we able to establish an early lead with some strong work up front from Berkshire Man of the Tournament Greg Brown recovering the ball at breakdowns time and time again. Two tries from Kuziva Ndwere helped Berkshire move into a 31-10 lead. Yet again Berkshire reduced down the intensity which resulted in two late scores by Essex and almost created a grandstand finish but with no time left on the clock Berkshire held on.
Berkshire Sevens v Kent Sevens
This was deemed by the supporters to be head-to-head of the two unbeaten sides who had shown throughout the day that they would be fighting to be County Champions. Kent were the most senior side present on the day with the county supported by senior players from Kent’s national league sides Old Elthamians and Westcombe Park.
The match did not disappoint and was a thriller from start to finish. After the first five minutes of action where attacks by both teams were cancelled out with great defensive tackles, Kent final broke the deadlock to take a 5-0 lead. Berkshire came back with a converted try to make it 7-5. Two further tries by both sides towards the end of the 1st half had the score 14-10 to Berkshire with Brendan Clarke scoring straight up the middle shaking off several tackles for his fifth try of the day.
In the second half there became a real war of attrition with neither side being able to breakdown the other. A last minute tackle by Kent on Simon Mahon resulted in an turnover with two minutes left and Kent were able to return the ball to score wide out but a superb kick made it 17-14. With seconds left and with Berkshire looking to move the ball wide to the ever present Clarke the ball broke for the Kent and Westcombe Park 1st XV centre Brendan Saffery to rave clear to seal the victory for Kent on the final whistle.
Berkshire Sevens v Surrey Sevens
With Berkshire now only able to secure the runners-up spot, they faced a Surrey side who had improved with each match they had played. From the kickoff Surrey were clearly in the mood to finish the tournament on a high in front of their home fans at Esher and scored almost from kick off breaking a tackle down the flank and scoring under the posts. From the resulting kick off Berkshire were able to retain some composure and were able to move the ball through several phases resulting in Ainsley Campbell able to score out wide. The half was not finished with Surrey and then Berkshire scoring in quick succession resulting in Surrey taking a halftime lead of 14-10.
There were clearly some unyielding words of motivation shared by coach Lumsden and Foncette with the team to ensure that they finished how they had started. From the outset the newly invigorated Berkshire squad finally stamped their authority on the match and two nippy scores by Simon Mahon and Kuziva Ndwere set up a rousing finish, with further tries by Ben Harris and Brendan Clarke. The final score was the most exciting which started and finished with Greg Brown winning the ball back from Surrey and then, after several phases of play from side to side of the pitch, found himself on the flank and was able to kick through the cover defence only for the ball to bounce up nicely for the final score give Berkshire a comprehensive 45-14 victory!
vs Sussex W 36-20 (6 tries-4) Try scorers Michael Etete, Ben Harris, Kuziva Ndwere, Brendan Clarke, Lewis Bunce x2
vs Essex W 31-24 (5-4) Greg Brown, Kuziva Ndwere x 2, Brendan Clarke, Simon Mahon
vs Kent L 24-14 (4-2) Brendan Clarke x 2
vs Surrey W 45-14 (7-2) Greg Brown, Ainsley Campbell, Simon Mahon , Kuziva Ndwere x 2, Michael Etete, Brendan Clarke
Thanks again to all the players, physio, coaches, supporters and ongoing county members for their support what was a great day
Updated 18th June 2017