They may not have achieved victory in the latest Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup leg at Reading Abbey but Alton’s under-11s dedication and character ensured they didn’t leave empty-handed.
Launched during the 2008-09 season, the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup is the first national grassroots tournament officiated by Premiership Rugby and run in conjunction with all 12 Premiership Rugby clubs.
On Saturday, it was the turn of London Irish to host the latest leg at Reading Abbey, where 18 local clubs were represented by their under-11s and under-12s mini rugby teams.
In total, over 7,000 children will participate over the course of the season as they go in search of a spot in the ‘Parade of Champions’ during half-time of the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final in May.
While Alton under-11s narrowly missed out on a spot in the semi-finals, their efforts stood out as community managers and referees singled them out for the Land Rover Spirit of Rugby Award.
The award recognises an individual player or a whole team who has epitomised the true spirit of rugby and played with true grit and determination throughout.
Alton under-11s showed exemplary fair play and were given the award as a team – winning tackle bags and other club equipment – because all of the players, parents and coaches were a credit to the club.
The team showed great sportsmanship by clapping the opposition off and taking it upon themselves to check up on any injured opposition players while the coaches ensured that all parents were supportive on the touchline so that the children could concentrate on enjoying their rugby.
Coach Ian Salisbury, whose son Matthew played on the day, stressed how important playing with the right attitude is at Alton.
“I’m really proud of the players as Alton Rugby Club spends a lot of time trying to develop the spirit of rugby in all of our players,” he said. “As coaches we talk to them about it every single week and they live it.
“One of our players wrote a letter earlier this week saying how important he felt it was for parents on the touchline to be as supportive as possible. It’s not unusual for us to get this kind of comment as we do spent so much time focusing on what it means to play rugby.
“We put out a mixed up team. We try to get as many people as possible playing and not worry too much about winning every single tournament.
“We spend a lot of time fundraising for the team, so to get some kit is fantastic and it will mean a lot to the boys as well as they know how we got it. It was earned not given to us because of the way we approached the game.”
Ten-year-old Luke Kereti added: “I’m really proud of my team today and really pleased to win this award. We know we have lot to work on but our team has a good spirit and we get on really well.
“I think in rugby it’s good to be strong and fast, but it’s important to be confident and play the game the right way. I like this tournament because you can learn something from all the games that you lose.”
Land Rover supports grassroots rugby and provides the opportunity for over 7,000 youngsters to take part in the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup each season. Keep up to date with the latest Land Rover rugby activity by following @LandRoverRugby on Twitter