The forty-fourth Guinness Carrick Sevens was held over the week-end of 29th April to 1st May, with a smaller entry than usual in the mens’ competitions but with the ladies’ events as strongly supported as ever. Despite the smaller overall entry and the cold, and at times damp, weather there was the usual festival atmosphere and some entertaining and highly competitive sevens rugby. The Grim Reapers were once again in attendance dispensing their world famous “Reaper Burgers” although, following their success in the Butler Shield, they no longer speak to anyone! Forrester from Edinburgh, making their thirty-third visit to Carrick, provided plenty of entertainment for the crowds over the week-end, taking part in probably the most unusual sevens match ever played, holding a “Tour Court” on Sunday- with total adherence to Judges’ Rules – and even managing to win something for the first time!
The week-end began with the Kukri Under 18s mens’ tournament and the second running of the Ladies Under 18s competition on Friday evening. The mens’ event was once again dominated by Edinburgh College who conceded just one try during the evening and ran in six of their own in beating Carrick in the semi-final and another nine in overwhelming BRA side Cobras in the final to take the Everest Cup for the second year in succession. Player of the Tournament was Scott Derrick of Edinburgh College. The Plate was won by Belfast Met who defeated Banbridge in the final while Lisburn took the Bowl, overcoming Randalstown in their final. The Ladies Under 18s competition was won by Malone who comfortably beat Carrick in the final to take the Forever Living Cup. Malone also provided Player of the Tournament in Bethany McDowell.
Although the entry for the Quigg Golden Open Sevens on Saturday was somewhat disappointing, with a number of late withdrawals, it provided some of the best rugby and best entertainment of the week-end. No one who witnessed it will ever forget the game between Forrester and NGN7s, with Forrester taking all of the kicks, including conversions, for NGN7s, tackling (by Forrester) being optional (and rare!) but hat throwing and pitch invasion apparently legal! Needless to say Forrester lost the game and the next one against Carrick Warriors in which they were assisted by three Carrick mini-rugby players who didn’t seem to mind the step down in class! Despite all that, Forrester somehow qualified for the Bowl final! In the serious part of the competition, NGN7s, Athletico Ards, Harlequins and Edinburgh College won their respective groups and contested the semi-finals. Both games were keenly contested, with NGN7s beating Ards by 17 points to 12 and Edinburgh College defeating Harlequins by 24 points to 17. The final turned out to be rather less competitive, partly because NGN7s were reduced to six men half-way through the first half when one of their players received a red card. In the end, Edinburgh ran in six tries to NGN7s’ two to win the Quigg Golden Open and the Holmes Salver. Player of the Tournament was Edinburgh College’s Robbie Chalmers (son of former Scottish international Craig Chalmers). After the final, the Holmes Salver was presented to the winning Captain by Mrs Marlene Holmes. At the prize distribution, Eddie Quigg of Quigg Golden presented a cheque for £1,758 – money which he raised by running in the London Marathon- to the rugby charity Wooden Spoon which provides support to disdvantaged children and young people across the British Isles. The President of Carrickfergus RFC, Bill Crymble, also presented a cheque for £1,000 from the Club to Wooden Spoon.
In the competitions for the minor places on Saturday, Autism Avengers from Ballyclare defeated Queen’s University side Major’s Dangers in the Plate final. By a quirk of the draw, Forrester found themselves in the Bowl final in which they overcame the Carrick President’s side thanks mainly to support from Carrickfergus RFC which went well beyond lending them playing kit! In winning the Bowl, they destroyed the dream of Arthur the Vet, playing for the President’s side, to win a sevens competition on his first appearance at the age of 36!
On Sunday 1 May, only four teams contested the Guinness Qualifying League competition because of a number of withdrawals. However, the four teams produced a very keenly contested tournament which was played on a League basis, with the top two teams contesting the final. Bangor, with a narrow win over CIYMS and a draw against Larne looked set for the final with only winless Carrick to overcome in their final match. However, the home side finally got their act together and beat Bangor by 29 points to 19. This sent Larne into the final against CIYMS; it is not true that had Carrick realised that this would be the outcome they would have let Bangor run in as many tries as they needed! The final was highly competitive, with Larne winning in the end by 12 points to 5. They also provided the Player of the Tournament in Philip Andrews who had performed impressively throughout the afternoon. The Bowl went to Carrick as Bangor withdrew because of injury problems.
The Ladies Sevens and the FLP Salver was won by Cooke who ran in five tries in the final in beating Crewe and Nantwich who were making their second visit to the Carrick Sevens. Cooke player Teah Maguire was judged Player of the Tournament. The Ladies Plate final was won by Ballynahinch who beat Newcastle- upon- Tyne based side Novos by 17 points to 12. The Bowl went to City of Derry who defeated Carrick in the final. The Mid & East Antrim Ladies Development competition was won for the second year in succession by Cavan who overcame Malone in the final. Niamh Walsh of Cavan was chosen as Player of the Tournament. At the prize presentation, Cavan were presented with a new trophy, the Lynda Waring Memorial Cup, introduced in memory of Lynda who was the Arts, Events and Marketing Manager at Carrickfergus Borough Council and worked with the Sevens Committee on many occasions. The trophy was presented to the Cavan Captain by Lynda’s young son Milo. The Ladies Development Plate was won by Cooke 2s who beat Coleraine in the final while the Bowl went to Randalstown who defeated Newry in their final.
At the conclusion of the Tournament, Club President Bill Crymble once again thanked the sponsors – Guinness, Quigg Golden, Kukri and Mid & East Antrim Borough Council – without whom the Sevens could not go ahead. He also thanked the Sevens Committee for their work throughout the year and paid tribute to the players and to those who turned up to watch in what was not always ideal spectating weather.
While the entry for the mens’ competitions was somewhat disappointing this year – although the ladies events were well supported – and attendances doubtless affected by the weather forecast, this was still a successful Sevens, with some highly competitive and entertaining rugby and with the usual very enjoyable social side.