More teams than ever before tag along
Last weekend’s Rochdale International Mixed Tag Rugby League Festival proved to be the most successful to date with 27 teams from across the UK and Europe partaking in this fun, non contact version of Rugby League.
Already the largest Adult Rugby League Festival in Europe, this year’s event saw a 12% increase in teams, a record number of Rochdale representatives, the most number of professional players taking part and the highest playing standards.
The weekend kicked off on Friday with 20 teams taking part in the Rochdale Borough Tag Rugby League festival, organised by the Bolton, Bury and Rochdale Rugby League Development Group (BBR RLDG).
The morning competition comprised of year 5 and 6 teams playing in groups of 4 to qualify them for the afternoon session, where they were seeded into groups based on their ability. It was St James (Wardle) that ran out as victors and will go forward to the Greater Manchester Mini Games in June as the Boroughs representatives.
The Adult part of the Festival kicked off with Friday nights International Challenge which saw 6 teams take part.
In Group 1 England, France and Hawaii played off and in Group 2 Wales, Fiji and Ireland.
The group stages were played out in a party atmosphere especially with the loose eligibility rules.
The two group winners were England and Wales and then the serious business started and the game was played after a far higher tempo and skill level. With the lead changing several times the game eventually finished in a deserved 3-3 draw, and the teams shared the Winners Shield which is sponsored by the Littleborough Sports Centre.
Saturday saw the main event, The Rochdale International Mixed Tag Rugby League Festival.
Teams from the North West, Yorkshire, London, Wales and France, as well as a Kiwi and Australian Exiles teams took part in a competition spread over nearly 5 hours.
The competition was split into the Tag Super Cup, for the regular taggers, and the B-Grade for the more social teams. After the round robin group stages, teams qualified for various semi finals ultimately leading to the prize finals.
The B-Grade Shield was contested between Westhoughton Lions (Bolton) and Wakefield, with the Lions running out the victors. The Shield is the first ever piece of silver wear for the club, who have only been running an open age section for 2 seasons.
Tank Sandwich, Hull KR supporters entering the festival for the first time, ran out B-Grade plate winners.
The B-Grade cup final was a rose’s battle as Queensbury took on locals The Flying Horse. Barman, Glass Collector and the Doorman combined well with the Bar Lady and Waitress and the team in pink ran out deserved winners!
The RFL North West All Stars took to the field against locals Littleborough Legion in the Super Cup Bowl. Despite an injury to key player John Duffy (Leigh Centurions/Scotland) in the semi final and the loss of Dan Parkinson to a hamstring injury early in the final, the RFL did enough and ran out 6-5 winners.
The Super Cup shield found its way back to Wales as the Celtic Barbarians turned on the style and added to the silverware won in 2010.
The Rochdale Hornets Super Cup Plate was played out as a repeat of last year’s final, with two times winners Littleborough Lightning taking on the Kiwi Exiles team NV US.
As in 2010, Golden Point was required as the scores were level at full time. It was Lightning who had the cutting edge, ensuring that they came away from the competition with a winner’s trophy for the third year running.
The Super Cup, sponsored by Link4Life, featured 3 London based teams at the semi finals, with Rochdale Cobras flying the flag for the locals. The impressive Notting Hill saw of Try Tag 2 in one semi final, with the Cobras, buoyed by a guest appearance of ex Swinton Lion and current Hornet Wayne English, seeing of Try Tag 8-1 in the other semi final.
With a large crowd gathered and a noisy vocal support from their ‘sister team’ the Flying Horse, Cobras and Notting Hill took to the field in a fast paced match. Last minute diving tags were in abundance as the early stage was a tightly contested affair.
In the end Notting Hill had too much experience for the Cobras, and with tournament MVP Brad De Va pulling the strings, ran out comprehensive winners.
During the festival there was also a 'Back The Bid' Sprint Challenge, as numerous competitors took part in a full pitch sprint challenge to show their support for Rochdales bid to host a Rugby League World Cup fixture in 2013.
Joshua Pinder from The Flying Horse, Rochdale ran out winner in the mens race with Kareena Brookes of Queensbury crowned fastest female.
Emily Wynn from the Rochdale Swarm said: "This year’s festival surpassed all our expectations. The standard of play, coupled with the record number of teams and the buy-in from Rochdale players and clubs has been fantastic.
“We would like to thank all those who supported the event, especially Ryan Bradley and Danny Pyke from the Bolton, Bury and Rochdale Rugby League Development Group and Terri Davey from Hornets who worked so hard to support the Festival and make it the success it is.
“We also are really grateful to all at Littleborough Sports Centre for their continued support, particularly Ste Parks, David Rawlinson and Brian Hurst along with all the canteen staff who worked so hard the entire weekend".
Ryan Bradley, Bolton, Bury and Rochdale Community Rugby League Manager for Link4Life commented: "It was another great festival and plans are already underway for 2012.
“I would just like to thank Farah Rahman from Link4Life and the Wigan 'Personal Best' scheme for providing all of the volunteers and in particularly Danny Crampton (Calderdale), Richard Thompson (Hull and District), Matthew Crowley (Spotland Whistlers) and all of the other officials for officiating all the games to a very high standard and making the festival a fantastic success".
Planning is already underway for 2012. Further details/pictures from the event can be found here: http://www.pitchero.com/clubs/rochdaleswarmtagrugbyleagueclub/ or search ‘Rochdale Swarm’ on Facebook.