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U14 Team Wins the Club’s First Ever National Trophy!

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U14 Team Wins the Club’s First Ever National Trophy!

Things have been building in our Rugby Club for a while now, but it has always seemed fairly unlikely that we would ever get to scale the highest peak against teams from clubs with much bigger player bases and decades more experience.

For a couple of seasons now, our U10 and U12 teams have consistently been spreading panic amongst the opposition ranks (and amassing fake silverware like it was going out of fashion), but the real tests come once the players leave the relatively shallow waters of the development phase and take the plunge into the fiercely competitive environment of the country-wide competitions organised for older age-groups. Much excitement had been generated by our U14 players last season, as they put all bar one of the top clubs to the sword, before falling at the final hurdle to G.D. Direito to become runners-up in the national 13-a-side competition. Several members of that squad remained in the U14s this season and, although they didn’t quite have the strength in depth to match their previous achievement, they took some serious scalps along the way and did pretty well to finish in 6th place overall. More importantly, as things would turn out, the experience taught them that they could be genuine title contenders when it came to the 7-a-side version of the game.

With X-factor players like Caio Borba, Rui Gaudêncio and Guilherme Jesus at his disposal, coach Pedro Gonçalves had more than just an inkling of this potential as he prepared his charges for the first round of the National Sevens tournament in Bairrada on the 12th May, and the results that day certainly confirmed his suspicions. Captain Sebastian Homer lead from the front as wins were chalked up against C.D.U.P., Direito (A & B), Cascais and C.D.U.L. with 21 tries scores and only 4 conceded. This outing set things up very nicely for the final leg at the Estádio de Honra at the Universitário de Lisboa on Sunday 26th.

Expectations had therefore risen almost as steeply as the thermometer as the team warmed up on a sweltering day in the capital, with players, coaches, parents and fans all getting used to the idea of a St. Julian’s team taking the field as the top dog rather than the underdogs. Early wins against Belas and Agrária de Coimbra settled a few nerves, before a very satisfying crunch game against Cascais was won by 3 tries to nil and saw us safely into the semi-finals. Our boys saw the Direito B team off comfortably enough, to set up a winner-takes-all final against the same club's very strong first string line-up.

And what an amazing final it turned out to be, with the lead changing hands several times before Direito seemed to have had the last laugh with a score that took them into a 3 tries to 2 lead with less than a minute left on the clock. Step forward Master Maximillien Coutts! Max fielded the ball from Zé Maria Batista close to his own try line before a deft side-step and brutal change of pace saw him break through the Direito defensive line and begin the long surge upfield. Max is quick, but the two Direito cover defenders were quicker still and breaths were held. There were no support runners close to him, so how on Earth was he going to make it all the way to the opposition line without being tackled? Fortunately, Max had a cunning plan. While running flat out he would swivel his head around like an owl to gauge the proximity of his pursuers, before picking his moments precisely to change direction in mid-stride like a super-agile rabbit to outfox the flailing Direito desperados and score a match-squaring zig-zag try made in Bunny Heaven. And so, just when the spectators’ nerves could take it no longer, the match entered sudden death extra time. Mercifully, the team held it’s collective nerve for long enough to win possession and shift the ball to the wing where, fittingly, Sebastian Homer scorched through to launch a majestic dive over the line and spark the wildest of celebrations.


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