Youngsters from Blaydon RFC and Houghton RFC are counting down the days to May’s Aviva Premiership Rugby Final after their fine efforts at last weekend’s Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup.
On Saturday, Blaydon Under-12s and Houghton Under-11s took to the field for the largest-ever Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup event, hosted by Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park.
Not only did they get to strut their stuff in front of onlooking Falcons academy player Charlie Wilson but they also secured the opportunity to appear at next May’s Aviva Premiership Rugby Final at Twickenham, where they will take part in a special half-time parade.
More than 70 Under-11 and Under-12 teams took part in this weekend’s grassroots rugby festival, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary year and has seen more than 70,000 children take part to date.
Blaydon and Houghton savoured every second and then found out they’d be going to the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final, while also getting the chance to go onto the pitch at half-time of the Falcons’ 25-22 win over Northampton Saints in the Big One at St James’ Park.
“It’s really fun and exciting! It’s amazing to be in a rugby atmosphere with all your friends,” said James Witham, 12, a Red House School pupil who plays centre for Blaydon.
“We have all enjoyed it together as a team, so it’s really good to be here.
“Everyone has got a lot of game time so they’ve enjoyed it, and it is good when you win as a team as well.
“We have been undefeated for nearly two seasons running now.”
Meanwhile, Houghton Under-11s coach Ross Thompson cannot wait to take his young charges to Rugby HQ.
“This group we have just love being out there on the pitch. They’ve missed a few weeks because of the weather, so they really enjoyed the day. There was a really good atmosphere about the place, and all played in the right spirit,” said Thompson.
“I was told we’d been chosen to go to the Final before our last game and I was on Cloud Nine – absolutely buzzing. I didn’t tell the boys until they finished the last game but it didn’t seem to sink in.
“Then we went to St James’ Park in the evening for the Newcastle Falcons game and at half-time, it was announced over the loud speaker what we had done and there was a lot of excitement.
“My son Finnley is the captain of the team and I’ve never seen him so happy. It’s all they are going to be talking about for the next two months.”
As well as taking part in the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup Parade during next May’s final, Blaydon and Houghton can also look forward to meeting a Land Rover rugby ambassador at Twickenham and hearing which of them has won a club MVP award.
They got a taste of rubbing shoulders with a professional when they met the Falcons’ Wilson on Saturday and the academy player admitted he had been impressed with what he had seen, in particular stressing the importance of grassroots rugby.
“It’s really good because obviously, you’re playing teams from further afield than what you’d normally do, so you’re coming up against other oppositions,” said the former England Under-18s centre.
“I played two years of the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup and it’s really enjoyable – it was a good experience.
“Twickenham was really exciting. You go on the pitch at half-time, so it’s a proper day out at the Premiership final.
“With the Big One knocking about as well, it was a pretty good weekend as a whole.”
Land Rover is celebrating its ‘Testimonial Season’; ten years of the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup. The national series of grassroots rugby festivals is testament to Land Rover’s continued support of grassroots rugby through its ‘We Deal In Real’ campaign. Follow @LandRoverRugby #WeDealInReal