This weekend saw the biggest Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup in history take place at Newcastle Falcons as more than 1,200 young players looked to book their spot at the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final in May.
The maximum capacity of 70 teams confirmed their place three months before the event at Kingston Park Stadium and Bullocksteads Sports Grounds as rugby in the North East continues to thrive.
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 clubs.
More than 7,000 children take part, with two teams from each Cup getting the chance to go to the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final at Twickenham on 28 May.
On Sunday, Northern FC Under-11s and Under-12s took the top prize with neither team conceding a try throughout their tournament.
Northern Under-11s Dan Stephenson was part of the team and said: “It’s going to be amazing going to Twickenham. I’ve been before when I went last August to see England versus Ireland in one of the World Cup warm-up games and I really enjoyed it.
“It’s an enormous stadium and the atmosphere was incredible. It’s going to be really cool getting the chance to go to the final.”
Northern Under-12s topped the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup for the second year in a row and James Taylor, 12, cannot wait to return to Twickenham.
Taylor, 12, said: “We played really well today. We moved the ball across the pitch well and really played as a team.
“We didn’t concede a single try throughout the whole tournament so we couldn’t be happier. It’s an amazing achievement to be able to do that.”
England Under-20s back row and captain Callum Chick was discovered at one of Newcastle Falcons’ Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cups and was one of the Falcons’ players who met youngsters and signed autographs on the day.
Tom Catterick, who grew up in Darlington and learned his trade at Darlington Mowden Park before being signed by Newcastle Falcons was impressed by the size of the festival.
Catterick, who has made 49 Aviva Premiership Rugby appearances during his career, said: “Events like the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup are massive for the kids. We used to have festivals like this but nothing on this kind of scale.
“For the youngsters to have the chance to play at Kingston Park and around the ground makes it an extra special day for them.
“It’s great for rugby in the North East to have events like this one run by Newcastle Falcons and rugby is definitely on the rise in the area after the success of holding a few of the World Cup games up here.
“It’s about the kids having fun, they are learning key skills and building their confidence simply because they love the game and are enjoying themselves.”
Land Rover is a proud supporter of grassroots rugby and a partner of the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup for nearly a decade. Land Rover’s ‘We Deal In Real’ campaign aims to champion grassroots rugby. Follow @LandRoverRugby #WeDealInReal.