Jordan Fenton updates on the Essex Blades Men’s Rugby 7s team
After over two months of gruelling training, the Essex Blades Men’s Rugby 7s team were eager to compete in their first competition of the year: The Dubai Rugby 7s. Being a small rugby university team up against teams of an international level, the Blades had a lot to prove.
In their first match, they faced Qatar, a team who for weeks leading up to the tournament had been training closely with current world 7s champions, Fiji. This was clear in the way they played, as their defence appeared near impenetrable. However, the persistence and precision of the Blades set pieces saw Captain Harry Barton steal a try late in the first half to open up the score line. Unfortunately, by this time, the unforgiving heat and first-match-adrenaline had begun to take its toll on the Essex Boys. This lead to some avoidable mistakes which Qatar took full advantage of. The determination to win ultimately lost the match, 21-5, creating a sub-standard start from Essex.
“Experience had taught them that skill-set and fitness would score them points, but only heart would win them games”
Although disappointed from their first result, the Blades saw this as a reality check. Experience had taught them that skill-set and fitness would score them points, but only heart would win them games. Despite the overwhelming challenge of another international fixture up next, fear was absent in the Essex team. Their frustration from their recent loss quickly transformed into motivation. From kick off to the final whistle, the Blades refused to let the UAE touch the ball, caging them within their own half. The roaring crowd and ecstatic looks on the Blades faces at the end of that match told the whole story. Essex 27, UAE 0.
Players were on a well-deserved high from this performance, but they knew that the challenge was far from over. The Middle Eastern Cougars were next up for Essex. Although this team had lost to the UAE, the boys knew that the unpredictable and spontaneous game that 7s is, meant anything could happen. The Blades knew they had to attack this game with the same aggressiveness as the previous fixture. What followed was not far from perfectly executed rugby, needless to say, a standard that did not allow the Cougars to breath. Essex punished the Cougars 43 points to 0. This was a confidence boost the team so desperately needed before learning they would be replaying rivals Qatar in the quarter finals.
“What followed was not far from perfectly executed rugby”
The results table so far showed Qatar as the strongest team in the tournament. It was clear the winners of this match stood a good chance of winning overall. Fortunately for Essex, Qatar’s ill-discipline saw one of their players off the pitch within the opening moments of the game, instantly giving the Blades an advantage. Not long after that, a Qatari player went down injured, creating a 7 on 5 situation. Exploiting this advantage, the Blades soon found gaps in Qatar’s defence, enabling them to go two tries, and 12 points up, in the first half. All Essex had to do was hold on for 7 more minutes. Every player put their body on the line and went to war within the second half… but unfortunately that was not enough. Despite a solid defensive effort, Qatar were able to squeeze their way through to score 3 tries, narrowly securing a win. The Blades had been blunted and were out of the running.
“Every player put their body on the line and went to war within that second half”
Qatar went on to comfortably win the competition, leaving a lot of inevitable “what if…” and “if only…” thoughts running through the Blade’s head’s. Despite coming up short, the boys did extremely well in their first tournament and showed that they are a team to watch out for in the future.