London Welsh U17s Rugby Youth Festival Portugal tournament.
Played 5, lost 4 and no points scored in those losses. Hardly a shimmering end to the season for the London Welsh U17s.
Ah - but when the win comes in the last game and the final memory is a winning try - well that’s a very different memory to take home.
Lisbon’s not many people’s first choice for a rugby venue. But the tournament, attracting 3,000 players from around the world was an outstanding event, even if the U17s found it hard to get into the local groove in the shadow of Sporting Lisbon’s stadium.
Our 3 Saturday matches - against 3 Portuguese sides - were competent enough performances. But while the driving mauls were as fearsome as they had been all season - the match format was something we struggled with. One 20-minute period-no halftime. Possession-particularly territorial was key. The U17s brought the 15-a-side, 70-minute game to Portugal while our savvier opponents, including Stockholm Exiles on Sunday morning built narrow leads and kept them.
In contrast with some teams who conceded 50 points or more in 20 minutes the U17s conceded less than 30 in 100 minutes of rugby. We knew there was a narrow line between success and finishing in a lowly position on the tournament board.
And so the final match against the equally lowly Loulé. Fuelled by a late-night team bonding and head-shaving session lubricated by (parents look away now) Sagres lager the U17s were up for their stand-out performance of the weekend. They were gritty, gutsy and committed and played with flair as well as passion.
The opposition’s frustration resulted in a yellow card for a Loulé forward and in short order we rumbled upfield for a second try that was converted just before the final whistle for a memorable win.
It’s unfair to single out individual players-suffice to say that in that final match the U17s played like they are - a bunch of mates who knew each others’ game inside out after years of playing together. Well done!
Thanks to our local sponsor Vigil and their St David’s-born boss Phil who supported us in person; Eduardo our excellent local liaison officer who was the first person to complain to the organisers after a sub-standard refereeing display and as ever to the magnificent Richard Brundle for his unceasing cheerfulness, energy and organisation.
Above all - thanks to the U17s for a wonderful end to the season.