The forty-sixth Guinness Carrick Sevens took place over the week-end of 4th to 6th May 2018 in much better weather than has been the case in some recent years. Although the entry was again lower than in the peak years, the good weather, some excellent contests in the various competitions and the fairly large crowds contributed to a festival atmosphere over the whole week-end.
For the first time, the Tournament featured a Tag competition, sponsored by Montgomery Refrigeration Ltd, on Sunday afternoon and this attracted its own band of supporters. Aside from the rugby, the crowds were treated to a variety of “entertainments” – some planned and some not! There were drop goal competitions, “frozen shirt” contests (don’t ask!), topless dancing by a kilted Scotsman from Forrester RFC – any resemblance to Scottish Dancing was purely coincidental – and the appearance from time to time of a male streaker. The latter was one of a Huddersfield RFC contingent who were in Belfast on tour, heard about the Sevens on Saturday night and turned up on Sunday to enter the Tag tournament and contribute significantly to the festival atmosphere.
The North of England was also represented once again by regular supporters of the Ladies competitions Novos, from Newcastle-upon Tyne. This year they entered two teams in the Guinness Qualifying Ladies tournament and, because of the round robin nature of the competition, had to play against one another. Instead of knocking lumps out of one another they treated the crowd to what looked like a combination of Rugby League and touch rugby with active participation from the “referee. It appears that Novos Sal won because they converted their try while Novos Pollard could not convert theirs! There were the usual childrens’ activities and, of course, the presence of the Grim Reapers selling their world famous Reaper Burgers, with Arthur the Vet on hand to provide quality assurance. Any disappointment they felt at being passed over for the catering contract at yet another Royal wedding was not in evidence on the day!
The Tournament began on Friday evening with the Kukri Under 18s competition for the Everest Cup. The Cup was won by Belfast Met who beat BRA linked Pink Panthers in a very keenly contested final in which each side scored three tries and only a conversion separated them at the end.
The Player of the Tournament award went to Jack Leatham of Pink Panthers. The Plate was won by Autism Avengers from Ballyclare who defeated City of Derry in another close, and high scoring, final while Carrick took the Bowl, beating Civil Service with four unanswered second half tries following a scoreless first half. At the end of the evening the Everest Cup was presented to the winning Captain by former Club President Johnston Everest.
The Quigg Golden Open Sevens on Saturday produced some excellent contests including a victory by regular, and usually winless, visitors Forrester over Ophir – with just a little help from Carrick. This secured them a place in the Bowl semi-final where normal service was resumed and they were well beaten by Queen’s Pirates. The Cup competition was contested by the four dominant sides: Carrick Warriors on their tenth anniversary appearance, BR Barbarians playing in memory of Ben Robinson and with their distinctive “Recognise/Remove” logo, NGN 7s, this year playing in support of the Doddie Weir Foundation, and last year’s winners Dungannon. NGN 7s beat Warriors in their semi-final while Dungannon came through with a “golden try” in extra time against BR Barbarians, the game being tied at 19 points apiece at the end of normal time. The final was a close affair with both sides touching down twice in the first half but Dungannon ran in two unanswered tries in the second half to win the competition for the second year in a row.
The Player of the Tournament award went to Robbie Faloon of NGN 7s who scored a lot of tries for his side during the day before being forced to leave the field with an injury in the final. The Plate, and the Price Cup, was won by Queen’s who ran in six unanswered tries against Larne while Carrick All Stars took the Willis Bowl with a nine tries to one victory over Queen’s Pirates. At the end of the competition the Holmes Salver was presented to the Dungannon Captain by the granddaughter of Marlene and the late Alan Holmes, the fourth generation of the Holmes family to be involved with the the Carrick Sevens. The winners’ cheque was presented by Eddie Quigg of Quigg Golden.
Sunday was given over to the two Ladies competitions – the Guinness Qualifying ladies tournament and the Mid & East Antrim Ladies Development Tournament – and to the Montgomery Refrigeration Ltd Tag Rugby tournament. In the latter, “tags” are removed from players as an alternative to tackling, teams have both male and female participants and each team must have three females on the field at any one time. In the Tag competition, the Cup was won by Try Babies, the Plate by Space Cadets and the Bowl by Carrick All Stars.
The Player of the Tournament was Andrew Harris of Try Babies. The Mid & East Antrim Ladies Development tournament produced yet another close final in which Carrickfergus came back from two tries down against Queens to square the match at the end of normal time and then went on to win the competition ,and the Lynda Waring Memorial Cup, with a “golden try” in extra time. All three of the Carrick tries were scored by Player of the Tournament Kirsten Todd.
The Plate was won by Dungannon who defeated Lisburn in the final and the Bowl by Cavan 2 who beat Cooke/Newry in their final. The Guinness Qualifying Ladies competition was won for the second year in a row by Malone who ran in five unanswered tries against Cavan. Their leading try scorer Hazel Jordan was again the winner of the Player of the Tournament award. The Plate final threw both Novos sides- Novos Sal and Novos Pollard – against one another and, having already met in the group stage, they decided not to renew rivalry and simply share the trophy.
At the end of the Sunday Tournaments, the trophies were presented by the Mayor , Councillor Paul Reid, with the assistance of Milo Waring who presented the Lynda Waring Memorial Cup, and Ritchie Kenny of Montgomery Refrigeration Ltd. Carrickfergus RFC President Allan Davidson then presented a cheque for £1,000 to Wooden Spoon, the rugby charity which helps disadvantaged children throughout Ulster. The President concluded by thanking the sponsors without whom the Sevens Tournament could not take place- Guinness, Kukri, Quigg Golden, Montgomery Refrigeration Ltd and Mid & East Antrim Borough Council. He also paid tribute to the work of Michael Simms and his Sevens Committee and helpers and thanked the players and spectators who helped make it an enjoyable three days.
While the entry may no longer be at the levels seen a decade ago, this was a very successful Sevens tournament, with some excellent matches, especially at the semi-finals and finals stages, and, with the weather playing its part, something of a festival atmosphere throughout. And that after all is what a good Sevens tournament should seek to achieve.