We saw trophy titles in four different disciplines at last Saturday's 2014 IRFU Volkswagen Tag All-Ireland Championships.
Teams from the wide array of host clubs around Ireland all descended upon this year's All-Ireland venue, Old Belvedere RFC, and played in more than 140 games throughout the course of the day as over 1,200 people were welcomed through the gates at this huge day in the tag rugby calendar.
As always in the mixed competitions, C and D (Beginners) Grades comprised the largest tournaments with twenty-four teams taking part in each. Mixed B Grade saw two groups compete for the Cup and Plate and for the first time ever, four Men's Vets teams competed for the Cup and Plate in their relevant tournament.
Conditions were monsoon-like with humidity levels high and little breeze this year but a shower or two did little to dampen the atmosphere at any time.
With Volkswagen setting up the VW Fan Zone on-site, visitors, spectators and players were able to try themselves in various rugby skills tests. Many also took part in the Volkswagen Guess 'N Win competition where they attempted to guess the number of rugby balls packed into the latest model of the Volkswagen Up! Winners will be contacted by Volkswagen where they will find out whether they have won VIP match tickets to the 2014 Guinness Series at the Aviva Stadium, RBS 6 Nations or indeed the superb signed Irish team jersey.
Speaking of the RBS 6 Nations, the well-earned trophy was on display throughout the day and scores of people took advantage of this great opportunity to get a picture with this much prized silverware.
On the games front, the day commenced with Mixed D Grade kicking off at 11am. Some very tight groupings developed thus making winners of the various trophies up for grabs anyone's guess. Winners of the D Bowl were Citi Sharks who defeated Invaders by 8 points to 4. In the Plate, TBD beat Rhode Runners 6-3. The D Cup was one of the three games which were the first ever games streamed live. Viewers saw Tag My Pitch Up defeat Warrior Credentials by a golden try in extra-time following a 4-4 game in normal time. Could not have asked for a better match to watch!
As the D Grade playoffs got underway, so too did the Mixed B Grade along with the Men's Vets making their All-Ireland debuts. Again these were close and unpredictable encounters that followed a very exciting group stage. For the Plate Final, Rhode Runners lost out to TBD, 6-3, with both team having overcome The Holy Shows and Sock Bandits respectively. Ruggerbandits who play at Cork's premier venue, Ballincollig RFC, toppled Tag's Most Wanted 4-2 in one Cup semi-final, thus setting up a showdown against Belfast Harlequins RFC's (and All-Ireland regulars) Lurgan Lions who beat Thunderstruckers in their own semi-final (scoreline 5-2). In front of a pitchside and live web audience, Ruggerbandits came out as eventual winners by 8 points to 6. A fantastic game and one which exemplified the spirit of tag rugby and how it should be played.
The Vets Plate saw Flying Crocks beat Grey Stallions, 7-3 while the rivalry stakes between Tag Stars and Lansdowne Legends went in favour of the former in the Vets Cup Final who matched Lansdowne's solitary try with 8 of their own.
As these trophy tournaments wound down, the Mixed C Grade took up the reins for the second half of the day. Yet again, group tables yielded little more than narrow margins for teams to qualify for their various trophy quarter-finals.
The Bowl Semi-finals delivered more superb games to watch with the Spartagans defeating Tarfy Bulls 11-6 and the Grubber Bandits losing their game against Team Damage by 7 points. Team Damage edged the final over Spartagans 7-6 thus winning the Bowl. The C Grade Plate final was won by Tag Run Colliders who won their semi against Star Taggers. For Cancer Focus Crew this year was not to be as they lost their own semi-final by 10 pts at the hands of At Least We're Tryin'.
In the C Grade Cup competition, Friesian Taggers, who had been showing some classy skills and teamwork won their semi-final against Al-Tryeda, 6-2, then played Cork Dubs, the winners of the Golden Try close-fought semi-final against D4 Dazzlers. Friesian proved too much for the Corkonian Dubliners/Dubliner Corkonians in this one, winning comfortably by 15 points to 2.
Trophies were presented to each winning team and runner-up team by IRFU President, Louis Magee and IRFU Junior Vice-President/Chairman of IRFU Rugby Committee, Stephen Hilditch, who were also accompanied by IRFU committee members Philip Orr and Ben Gormley, director of Irish Rugby Development and the Club Game, Scott Walker.
Quite a day and already teams have been asking about next year's tag season, which is already shaping up to be even bigger and better as more clubs join the programme.
We would like to thank the following for their part in the success of these All-Ireland Championships and all of IRFU Volkswagen Tag: Our sponsors Volkswagen Ireland, Barry O'Carroll and our All-Ireland host club Old Belvedere RFC, Blazing Kitchen Catering, St John's Ambulance, INPHO, John, Paul, Brian and Conor of VideosOnTheNet, all of our amazing referees for their knowledge, time (and patience!) and last but certainly NOT least, each and every player that frequents our host clubs week in week out. We hope to see you all during the regular rugby season, be that at an international game, provincial game, club game, schools game or a minis festival. Thank You!
Despite some testing conditions around the country, the final round of Ulster Bank League action before Christmas produced an avalanche of scores.. Armagh lead Division 2B thanks to their superb nine-match winning streak over the first half of the season, while Lansdowne, Buccaneers, Nenagh Ormond and Rainey Old Boys are the other table toppers.
Banbridge's three chief chasers are all at home this afternoon in the final round of Division 2A fixtures before Christmas. The match of the day is undoubtedly table-topping Bann's trip to fourth-placed Highfield.