Three day festival of rugby brought legends of the game to town

 

Pictures by Jamie Gray

 

Since Rugby became a focal point of the game during the Rugby World Cup in 2015 with a Fan Zone being based here, there’s been a bit of an ‘after the lord mayors show’ feel to the town. The entertainment and attractions put on at the Fan Zone were probably the best the towns ever seen related to celebrating the game born on our soil. The town was transformed into a two-month party, with huge numbers of tourists exploring the birth place of the game, and residents proudly exclaiming where they’re from.  “Why can’t we do this more often?” was the collective question asked by many Rugbeians at the time.

It was probably this question which ignited the seed of an idea within the minds of a few local business owners. The vision was to host a weekend of matches and entertainment at the very place the sport was born – Rugby School.

Legends were contacted, stall holders assembled, and the immaculate pitches of the school fields were given an extra trim.

Friday evening saw a match between various legends of rugby battle it out on The Close, with all players being over 35 and have played in top-flight rugby during their career. Despite the rain and darkness, there was a healthy number of spectators with many huddling under the VIP tent to keep dry. A VIP ticket cost £50.

Saturday saw the action move to the playing pitches at the top of Barby Road. There were exhibition matches between Rugby Lionesses and England Women’s Deaf Rugby, International Veterans, Super League vs Army Veterans, and a wheelchair rugby match. Enterlude Events put on local musical acts, and a small fun fair kept the children entertained. The site size was very large, consisting of several full sized pitches. Even though a few pitches were allocated for matches, there was never a feeling of many spectators or event-goers as the huge field made it look sparsely attended. The biggest audience was found at the strong man event, where dozens of weightlifters flexed their muscles to claim the title of Rugby’s Strongest Man.

Sunday was based in the same field as Saturday, albeit without the music or fun fair. There was the ability for children to train with legends, 7’s Mixed Touch Rugby, and Northampton Demons vs Bath Rugby League.

In its first year I’m sure there was lots to review and correct. Hopefully the appetite for such an event will grow within the residents of the town and Rugby gets its annual show its been crying out for.

izzie derry rugby fest

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