On Saturday 8th June, an eager Manchester Chargers squad gathered to play in the third Steeden Development National Touch Series Tournament of the season at the brand-new Wymondham Rugby Club. The bar had been well and truly set with two previous victories at the DNTS competitions in Chester and Banbury. Could they make it 3 in 3?
The team sheet included experienced DNTS competition winners Captain MVP Simons, Harry 'Touch Man' Armitage and Robert 'Mr Tickle' Crawford, with a solid squad who had high hopes of another undefeated day.
Unrelenting wind and rain meant team-building started early. After some swift negotiation and problem-solving skills, the Manchester Chargers tent was assembled. Thoroughly damp conditions also required lots of kit exchanges throughout the day, with the coach AJ Southgate lending all of his clothing to Lol and Nubs coming up with trumps with long trousers for Becky who had insisted on only wearing shorts for touch games!
The competition tapped off with Chargers being first up to face local rivals, the Chester Nomads who had a predominantly female squad. It was a frantic start with a few dropped chances but the team soon built momentum and Simons paved the way with the first score. Some excellent interplay saw Becky get her first competitive Chargers touchdown. James added another two scores either side of Chester’s only try. Nubs subbed on and split the Chester defence down the middle for his first competitive score, followed by further scores from Sarah and a brace from Overbury. Chester displayed excellent defensive efforts and the game finished with 8-1 win, a brilliant start to the day!
Next up, Chargers tapped off against an unknown Northampton COYS. Excellent attacking play from Bellew allowed her to cross for the opening score. A youthful and experienced Northampton side made for a tough match but Simons and Crawfrod efforts took the score to 3-1. To finish, Overbury managed to sneak through Northampton’s defence and fancied his chances at throwing a high ball. Time stood still but luckily Becky managed to touchdown for the final score of the game.
Onto the next match, Chargers were ready for a tough test against Canterbury with a few England players in their ranks. Overbury saw his 3rd score of the day but going into the second half the teams were tied. Out comes evergreen Cropper to put a brace in, even having to dive for one, leading Chargers to a 2-1 win.
With the wind and torrential rainfall at its worst, team spirits were low going into the fourth game of the day against the Thames Valley Vikings. Despite some excellent defensive play, Chargers conceded one try. A disappointing 0-1 defeat placed Chargers second in the group; their first loss of the season at DNTS. During this tough match, heroic defensive efforts from Flack meant she sustained a lip injury from a stud to the face. Fortunately it did not impact on her good looks, but she did need to sleep off the injury in her car before the next round of matches.
To avoid further injury, the chargers tent had to be carefully dissembled and we retreated indoors for a two hour lunch break. The team warmed up and restored energy levels with a mixture of maoams and Rob’s chocolate flapjack (move over Mary Berry!).
With the team quickly noticing Flack’s absence from the warm-up, Overbury was tasked with locating a sleeping Flack in the club car park. With moments to spare before the next match against the Peterborough Tropics, the girls were faced with the prospect of a quarter final with no female subs! Luckily a drowsy Em saved the day by arriving just in time for kick-off. Despite the nail-biting start, Captain Spiderman set the tone for the match by scoring a hat trick within the first 5 minutes. This was quickly followed by 2 scores each by Harry and Bruce respectively. A straight-forward 7-2 win secured Chargers’ place in the semi-final.
Stakes were high as Chargers entered the Semi-Final with the hosts, the Norwich Rebels. Once again it was a fiercely contested match, however, a strong Norwich defence stood no chance against the quick feet and athletic skill of Bellew and Armitage. Crawford wanted in on the action and displayed some professional footwork, side-stepping several Norwich players to get over the try line. The crowd, Chargers and Norwich all waited with baited breath in anticipation for what would be the third try of the game. No such try appeared when Dr Strange put the ball down over the deadball line leading to Coach AJ Drax Southgate pulling out the rest of his remaining hair. Witnessing Rob’s omission proved too much for Cropper who subsequently decided to join the opposition in their sub box before quickly coming to his senses and returning back to play for Chargers. Fortunately, Chargers recovered the lost score with a final try by Becky taking it to a 3-1 victory and into the final!
To close the day, a decent but damp crowd gathered for the long-anticipated grand finale between Chargers and their long-time friendly rivals: The Yorkshire Thorns. The match did not disappoint as both sides displayed excellent attack and defence. Bruce played a blinder by scoring 2 tries and more handy footwork from him left ex-Chargers player Becci Pearce literally floored. No smoke without fire, Captain James and the Touch Man himself, Harry Armitage also got their names on the scoresheet.
It was a close final match as the Yorkshire Thorns managed to score twice making the final score 4-2 and Chargers 3rd DTS tournament win of the season; 3 in 3!
A fantastic game to end the tournament and as always, thoroughly enjoyable for all involved!
Captain James was also given his first MVP award of the season. After quickly helping the organisers clear the pitches, the squad headed home in preparation for their night out in Norwich.
With thoughts of Cheltenham and Derby in the distance, could chargers make it all the way?