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U14 Girls VII Runners up at their first Rosslyn Park Tournament

25th March 2024

12 U14 Girls became just the second cohort of Oakham Girls rugby to compete at the international festival at Rosslyn Park. Sammy Hanrahan, the U14 Girls Coach, speaks on their incredible achievement.

With the success of the U16s reaching the top 20 the previous day they were both excited and nervous, especially as only 4 of these 12 had ever played any rugby at all before that morning. Each of the 3 group games followed a similar script, with a high tempo of play and, as the livestream commentators put it, “cheat code speed” from Hollie and Georgia on both edges allowing us to stride away by a few scores in the first few minutes. An aggressive and never say die defence, which improved throughout the tournament allowed our squad rotation to be effective, protecting our key players for later rounds.

While the try scoring, big hitting and conversion kicks often receive praise, in order to go deep in these knockout tournaments all squad members must Contribute to allow the superstars to be fresh. This Contribution to, and Connection between our squad was clearly the real “cheat code” to our success.

This was most clear in the second game with Jess scoring an 80m break and Hester “the Jackal” securing turnovers at will and scoring 2 lovely outside breaks of her own. Philipa, Iona and Florence were unsung heroes all day, along with Feen and Cici sharing the heavy duty and thankless work up front. This was never clearer than when Florence felled the main ball carrier from JESS in half with an expertly executed chop tackle in the final. Fleur and Sam controlled our play in attack and defence, allowing the speedster twins and Lucy the luxury of spaces out wide to shine on the big stage in the Semi and Final.

Against a highly experienced, physical and fast Jumeirah English Speaking School (JESS) the girls showed incredible Courage, not only to put their bodies on the line for their mates but keep going in the adversity that comes with elite level sport. It is worth noting that JESS, from Dubai, play rugby 7s as their major winter game and their U14 group this year had been playing every week this season in the build up to this tournament. In the final, having taken, then lost, regained, and lost the lead again it was clear that the Care the squad had for one another gave them deep reserves of energy to call upon and the never say die work rate was on display until the bitter end of the game.

After 2 minutes of constant defence, Georgia executed a tackle and turnover in the 5-metre channel on our own line, popped to Feena, then through the hands of Fleur and Hollie before perfectly executing a 2 v 1 to put Lucy in the clear in the 15m channel – with only 95 meters needed to go she went on to score “one of this tournament’s great individual tries”. But as we know their success was exemplified by this moment, the commentator could only see the final run but all 7 players on the field were needed in the immediate build up to Lucy receiving the ball, and those 7 would not have been there if not for the Care, Courage, and Contribution of the other 5.

When the team think on this in future years, I hope they will look back on with incredible pride, in themselves and each other. For the Friday night light sessions on the astro, learning new contact skills in the puddles after netball on Saturdays or staying late after Leave-out to squeeze in another hour to prepare. The physical efforts you and your mates put in for each other, the incredible highs and disappointment of a single point, and to do all of this to such a high level when playing for the first time. These girls are deservedly the best U14s girls’ team in England, and more important they achieved this incredible level of success whilst always acting as shining examples of Oakhamians, on and off the field.

I, your coaches and all the rugby staff are incredibly proud of you. Congratulations.

Sammy Hanrahan, U14 Girls Coach

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