Irish schools show their strength in inaugural Nations event
"Fantastic". "Wonderful". "A great experience". "Perfect venue, great organisation".
These are just some of the comments from the happy school coaches who attended the English RFU-approved inaugural tournament at Hartpury College, Gloucester, England, last month.
Twenty-nine teams from Ireland, Wales, England, Scotland and Italy showed their rugby skills to great effect during the three-day tournament.
There were two sections -- A and B -- to cater for the different levels, and the schools played in pools before proceeding to the knockout stages.
The standard of rugby was very competitive and of the highest level.
Well-known rugby referee Chris White spent two days assisting with the assessment of the referees, who were all participating in an RFU referees programme.
Gloucester Rugby officials were also on hand to oversee all aspects of the rugby.
Section A produced some wonderful games in the pool stages, with Neath Port Talbot College, St Mary's College (Dublin), Filton College A (Bristol) and St Munchins College (Limerick) all progressing to the semi finals.
Filton College A and St Mary's College won their respective games to set up a classic final. With the game at 3-3, a converted try in the last few minutes and Filton's physical strength was enough to bring them through.
Other 'A' finalists were Hartpury College, who overcame Crescent College Comprehensive SJ (Limerick) in the Stena Line Plate.
In the Topflight Sports for Schools Bowl, Hampton College (Cheshire) defeated Glenstal Abbey (Limerick), while Coleg Gwent Crosskeys were too strong for Dalriada School (Ballymoney) in the Stena Line Shield.
In the B Section finals, the Gloucester Rugby Cup went to Loretto College (Scotland). Their game with Filton College B ended at 6-6 each, but Loretto won the penalty kicks shootout.
In the Topflight Sports for Schools Shield, Fettes College (Scotland) defeated Belvedere College B.
Sligo Grammar School won the Gloucester Rugby Bowl by beating Bandon Grammar School.
Finally, in the Evening Herald Plate, Wesley College (Dublin) defeated Ysgol Glantaf 13-11 in a dramatic game. A penalty try in the last minute gave Wesley a deserved victory.
Other Irish schools who participated were Christian Brothers College, Cork (two teams), Colaiste Iognaid (Galway), Terenure College (Dublin), and Belvedere College, Dublin (two teams). Italian side Colleferro were also welcome visitors to the event.
This tournament will be an annual event and plans are already being put in place to ensure that next year's tournament will be bigger and better.