Sixteen boys represented Academy Rugby Football Club and the Borough of Newtownabbey recently in the prestigious Top 12 Mini Rugby tournament in Rodez, France. Bank of Ireland and Newtownabbey Borough Council’s Sports Development Department assisted the touring team with kit sponsorship and a grant to aid their travel expenses.
The Top 12 is one of the biggest rugby events of its kind in France, attracting the leading French clubs as well as passionate European rugby nations such as England, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, Spain and Wales.
This year Australia and South Africa were also represented, bringing the total of competing teams to forty.
Five boys who made the trip last year returned as part of Academy’s Rodez 2007 squad – Daniel Dass, Taylor Gillespie, Adam Brice, Matthew Simpson and Max Oates. Eleven players from last year’s P7 Mini Group completed the playing squad.
Coaches Kyle Dobbin and Ricky Press were assisted by John Gillespie, Neil Saunders and Mark Shilliday. The boys trained hard all through the summer and their unstinting efforts were rewarded by producing some incredible rugby in the tournament and finishing a very credible 12th out of the forty teams.
The Academy team played some very entertaining rugby and won three out of their four games in the morning qualifying session, beating Colomiers, Albi and Aurillac, with their one loss coming against Montauban who eventually finished 3rd overall.
Finishing second in the group meant that Academy progressed to the quarter-final stage, but unfortunately they lost narrowly in the last-eight to French team Toulon.
In the afternoon games Academy played in round robin matches, beating Maidenhead, drawing with Stade Francais and losing to US Tyrosse. The tournament has given the sixteen Academy mini rugby players the opportunity to taste the true international flavours of rugby – well done to all involved.