Summer is normally a sad time for rugby players as it marks the end of the season and while it frees up weekends to try and build up that brownie point collection for the season to come it also means the close of the much loved clubhouse, albeit having already drunk the bar dry!
However for Jonathan Chandler and his bunch of merry men it is another excuse to rejoice as summer means that while the 15-a-side format is put to bed the Sevens circuit takes centre stage and is a chance for flashy wingers, expert offloaders and the occasional battering ram to soak up the plaudits along with the summer rays (and more often than not end up with the classic farmer tan… if you’re lucky, or burn if you’re not).
Thamesians have a proud and rich heritage on the Seven’s circuit, as anyone who has seen the numerous trophies adorning the clubhouse walls will attest to… or those who have talked to Robin et al. will be acutely aware of. The pressure of living up to County champions is a tough ask but as always when a challenge is laid down that is when T’s respond best. While they had the luxury to call upon England and Harlequins stars, the class of ‘17 isn’t quite as fortunate. But in the more than capable hands of Chandler Jr. a man who lives and breathes Sevens and knows almost everything about it and our very own Trini international Buddha the platform was set and the summer festivities could begin!
This years Sevens series was kicked off at Richmond RFC’s ground in the Middlesex 7s competition and the lucky 12 who were selected to represent Thamesians on the day were raring to go and lay down a platform for the season ahead. Despite some last minute crash courses on the skills and requirements of the Sevens elite, the boys struggled in their first game against a well drilled outfit as Ts tried to forge new partnerships across the pitch and with things not going quite to plan the first match ended in a tough loss for the team. A quick debrief between the lads and an onus put on the positives to take out from the game got everyone’s minds back to the task at hand, winning the remaining games to ensure that we ended the day with some silverware and our heads held high. The preparation for the second match was marred by an unfortunate injury to Callum Godden who tweaked his knee in the warm up. This freed up a space in the squad and who better to try and steal some limelight than fat Judas himself (Mr Tramp) who happened to be in the vicinity and jumped at the opportunity to help his old comrades. On to the second game which was a marked improvement and saw combinations start to click with Jonno finding the space to unleash his burners, Kieran distributing with pinpoint accuracy and Big George proving the haters wrong powering through anyone who got in his way. A resounding win in that second match paved the way for a string of victories to carry Ts all the way to the Merit & Social 7s Vase final which was to be held on the main pitch. After a brief scare of having to face an invitational team from Fiji who were all enormous (they were actually playing in the elite final before us) the boys we determined to not leave empty handed. The desire to succeed was furthered when before the game the opposition were seen taking pictures of the trophy they thought they already had one hand on...but time would tell. It all came down to this one match and after conceding early the much-appreciated Ts fans began to fear the worst, but some resolute defending and a scintillating combination of hands and pace meant Ts pegged their way ahead much to the appreciation of the raucous support. The highlight of the final was a sensational step and go from Callum ‘the wheels’ Savill before pinning his ears back and racing away to dot down under the sticks (okay he was knackered and flopped in the corner). A couple more Ts tries saw them bring home the glory (no matter what the club shirts say it was in fact glory before the beer this time!) beating Tropics 7s 31-17 at the final whistle! And while the victory was sweet a big shout out must go to George on the subs bench for his wise words ‘I do want to help out but as it’s a final and quite important I think I might impact the team too much… I mean negatively.’ So with the silverware presented and the team in euphoria the real celebrations could begin, everyone taking a sip (or large gulp... George claiming the morale victory there) of liquor from the cup before heading straight to the bar for some much needed recovery pints after all that hard work.
Next on the agenda was the Summer Social Sevens which saw the squad return to the happy hunting grounds of Richmond RFC. A new look squad took to the field hoping to emulate what had been done a couple of weeks previously and maintain the winning ways. The locality of the venue meant that a large force of supporters were on the sidelines and gave it their all to act as an eighth man to boys out on the field and with several more training sessions under their belt the stage was set for the continuation of Ts sevens story. From the off it was clear to see that the preparation was paying dividends and resulted in some flowing moves giving Ts a solid platform to their campaign and the ability to launch an attack on more silvermore to bring back to HQ. A minor blip in the third group game was overcome in the last match of the group stage to ensure that the team qualified for the semi finals. With the supporters crowding the sidelines the team ran out to try and cement their place in the final. With the day’s searing heat and injuries taking their toll unfortunately this was to be end of the road for this tournament but at such a competitive event this was no mean feat and would be used as a marker for future progress. Thankfully the team were able to put their sorrows behind them and enjoy the party that was laid on with DJs blasting out the tunes and beers flowing easily until the early hours and as a result Sunday didn’t exist for many of those involved. This time the match shirts had it right and it was a case of beer before(and after) glory.
The magnificent performance of the British and Irish Lions in the second test (Farrell you beauty!) sent the boys into an early party mood that worked off any beers that may have been sneakily consumed the night before much to the disappointment of supreme-athlete Jonno, the team geared up for the next challenge that would face them in the form of Sevens in the City hosted at Allianz Park. The venue was another fond location for several of the players representing Ts having put a Millhill side to the sword on Allianz Park in 15s a couple of seasons before. Señor Warm Up claimed another casualty before the first game with Darcy, our long haired miniature Irish hooker succumbing to a foot injury (despite his cries of NOOOO, NOOOOO!) before the first whistle had even touched the referee’s lips. This clearly impacted the team more than people realised and a poor first half performance in the first game could not be overturned in the second half despite Jonno’s best efforts with a hat-trick the Ts knew they had a fight on to salvage anything from the day. The team duly responded and nifty footwork and good use of overlaps allowed the boys to build on the structures and score some magical tries from all over the pitch. As you can guess the majority were scored by Mr Sevens himself but I seem to recall he did pass once, maybe. Sebastian did his best to disrupt the flowing sevens that was being played by getting yellow carded once or twice (don’t worry I won’t mention the third one!) but the team pulled through this adversity and continued their rampage all the way to the knockout stages. The semi final saw the team meet Dambusters Sevens, an invitational side who were well known on the sevens circuit so the boys were aware it would be a tough challenge. The opposition being coached by none other than Mike Friday, ex England 7s and current USA 7s coach, didn’t help the situation but the lads didn’t let this intimidate them and immediately went about their business. An early Ts lead was maintained until just before half time and the boys battled through to the final whistle leaving everything on the pitch. However, unfortunately it was not to be and it meant that it was another semi final exit for Thamesian’s Sevens. The highlight of the day, for everyone except Keagan, was seeing one of the biggest ever hits on a sevens pitch. A floated pass from Buddha was collected by Keagan above his head and as he turned to unleash a 3 on 1 overlap, was cut in half by an opposition player of large stature running at pace. A clean hit with perfect timing, and after ensuring Keagan was okay, a hit that was talked about as having the potential to go viral, his ribs may still be somewhere on that pitch!
The latest instalment of the Thamesians sevens adventure was an invite into Surrey Sevens at Esher RFC. Some last minute drop outs put the team’s position in jeopardy but with everyone banding together and calling in fresh recruits the squad was ready to go with Arlind Cela leading the charge as Jonno was not 100% fit but his impact would come to bear later. A new format for the tournament left everyone confused with each game being a potential knockout into a lower division meaning the ability to decipher the schedule was a challenge. A recurring theme of the summer struck Ts with a lacklustre first game performance resulting in a loss, albeit against a very strong Guildford side, saw the team reeling and being in the familiar position of knowing that losing again was not an option. The team responded excellently and ignored the lashing rain (our own lashing was to be done later) which did its best to ruin the spectacle of rugby skills on show to secure another string of wins to keep themselves flying high in the second tier of the competition. Strong performances from Mr Steal Your Stash (TeeJ) and Big Mike (aka Bob Delaney) helped the team overcome a potentially tough semi final against old rivals Tropics 7s and proved how far this team had come over the summer. Tropics were duly dispatched and the 6 opposition men remaining on the pitch were quick to seek cover from the rain with their tails between the legs the instant the final whistle blew. Ts were now back where they belonged on the main pitch for another final and hoping to cap the day with some more silverware. However it was to be final heartache for the boys in maroon as they were valiantly defeated by a decent Teddington outfit leaving them as runners up of the second tier event, the Tankard Cup. Another cracking performance from all members of the squad meant that they did come home with another piece of silverware to add the trophy cabinet. Do we actually have a cabinet at the clubhouse? We should get a trophy cabinet!
The final act on this year’s sevens calendar sees the Thamesians Sevens outfit head to the National Pub 7s at Harpenden on 27th August. As ever it would be great to get as many people down as possible as your support really does help gives us that extra boost when we need it most.
Finally, it wouldn’t be right to talk about sevens without giving the biggest shoutout to Jonno who puts in so much time and effort to develop our skills, organise our tournaments and most importantly make sure that everyone has a fantastic time playing the game they love...oh okay most importantly scores loads of tries to make us look good. Thank you also to all the players that have made this summer’s sevens events (and the sessions afterwards) so much fun, we go to the final tournament with the enviable record of getting to at least a semi final in each one we’ve entered so far, long may that last!
That’s it from me and I look forward to enjoying the season ahead with all you, on the pitch and by/under the bar!
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