Despite having only three of the side that won last year’s title, the Exiles DHL Sevens squad succeeded in retaining the Premier Manvik Sevens crown at the 2007 Guinness Carrick Sevens tournament, which was played out over the Bank Holiday weekend.
Following last year’s outstandingly successful event, Carrickfergus RFC had a hard act to follow but follow it they did, with yet another great weekend of Sevens and Ten-a-side rugby.
Together with sponsors Guinness, Kukri Sportswear, Manvik, Lombard, Powerade, Northern Ireland Events Company and Carrickfergus Borough Council, they produced a tournament which provided one of the most keenly contested Guinness Open finals of recent years, another masterly display of Sevens rugby from the Irish Exiles and an equally impressive exhibition of Ten-a-side rugby from Cooke Ladies.
There were again entries from across Ireland and the UK, with the usual strong Scottish representation. Cork side DNA Warriors even passed up the chance to appear at their local Kinsale Sevens in favour of coming to Carrick.
The weather was, for the most part, kind and the social events were sold out days before the tournament started. There were the usual activities for children, appearances by the Kukri Allstarzz dancers and large queues for the, by now, world famous “Reaper Burgers” served up by the title-winning Grim Reapers themselves!
The weekend began on Friday with the Kukri-sponsored Under-20s tournament. This was won by a very good Malone side who overpowered Dungannon in the final, winning by 42-14, having only just shaded Ballymena in a lively semi-final. The other U-20 semi-final, between Dungannon and Rainey was decided by a “golden try” in extra-time. The “Most Valuable Player” award went to Malone player Joshua Devitt.
The Guinness Open tournament, played on Saturday, produced one of the most keenly contested finals of recent years, with the result in doubt until well into the second half. The event was won by Belfast area composite side Kidney Bean RFC who beat Edinburgh side Heriot-Watt in the final, out-scoring them in the end by four tries to two.
However, Kidney Bean held only a two-point lead at the break and were penned in their own half for the opening minutes of the second half. The turning point came when one of the Heriot-Watt players was given a yellow card and Kidney Bean subsequently ran in two tries to finish as 26-10 winners. The Holmes Trophy was presented to the winning captain by Mrs. Marlene Holmes. The “Most Valuable Player” award, adjudicated on by Richard Holmes of the Newsletter, went to David O’Hara of Kidney Bean.
On their way to the final, Heriott-Watt won their pool on points difference from the highly fancied CIYMS team – the sides having drawn their pool match. The Scottish side then easily overcame UUJ in the semi-final. Kidney Bean won all of their pool games, including their clash against 2006 winners Academy, but were made to battle hard by Larne Vikings in their semi-final before winning by four tries to two.
Hosts Carrick were victims of some erratic refereeing in their first match, losing by just a conversion to Edinburgh side Athletico Telford, and then going down by the same margin to UUJ. They went on to win their two remaining games comfortably but it was not enough to get them into the knockout stages.
Despite a couple of late withdrawals from the Manvik Premier Sevens, and fairly windy conditions, Sunday’s showcase event produced some excellent rugby. The Lombard Ladies International Ten-a-side tournament, with three teams from England, one from Wales and four from Northern Ireland, was won by the powerful Cooke team. They won all of their pool games and their semi-final without conceding a try and had their line crossed only once in the closing stages of the final, when the result was beyond doubt. They won the final, and the FLP Cup, by 26-5. Their opponents in the final, Pontyclun Falcons, from just outside Cardiff, also won all of their pool games but were made to fight hard by Carrick Ladies in the semi-final. The result was in doubt until near the end, with the Welsh side eventually winning 14-5. The “Most Valuable Player” award in the Lombard Ladies event went to Rachel Boyd of Cooke.
In the Manvik Premier Sevens, the Exiles DHL side, the defending champions, again showed their mastery of the Sevens format, winning both of their pool games (although Dungannon made them work hard), beating Ballynahinch 33-7 in the semi-final and then going on to run in seven tries against a spirited Queen’s side in the final. Queen’s also won all of their pool games and overcame Old Belvedere by five tries to three in their semi-final. The “Most Valuable Player” award went to the Exiles scrum-half Michael Kirkwood. As well as the winners’ cheque, the Exiles captain Jon Skurr was presented with the Simms Salver.
The Carrick Sevens Committee, led by Michael Simms, aided and abetted by his “youthful assistant” Jim, can once again be proud of their efforts in producing a great weekend’s entertainment and in the process bringing a large crowd of visitors to the Borough.
– For further information on the 2007 Guinness Carrick Sevens event, please visit www.carricksevens.co.uk –