This event is regarded as a prestigious festival in the Under 13s rugby calendar by teams across the region.
The festival is held in honour of James who played rugby at Stourbridge from a young age through the minis and juniors and had progressed to playing adult rugby for Stourbridge as a hooker back in 1998. Following a scrum collapse, James was badly injured and suffered a broken neck and subsequent paralysis from the neck down. Despite this, James has continued to be an avid rugby and Stourbridge fan.
Stourbridge welcomed teams including Evesham, Stow on the Wold, Droitwich, Newport Salop, Shrewsbury, Telford Hornets, Bournville, Old Halesonians, Dudley Kingswinford, Sutton, and Willenhall to take part in this years festival and it was clear that Stourton Park was going to witness some highly competitive and captivating rugby given the standard of clubs in attendance. We weren’t to be disappointed and all teams had equal participation playing five games each, progressing from a pool stage to play offs where teams pitched themselves against teams of similar ability resulting in a competitive but enjoyable day of rugby between local rivals. Coaches and supporters of all teams were highly complementary of the festival and the facilities on offer by Stourbridge, which saw excellent outside catering provided by Shippo and his team, as well as a stupendous cake stall graced with creations from the mums and players of the U13s, supplemented by Jackie Jeavons-Fellows, some of which looked too good to eat and would not have looked out of place on the Great British Bake Off! All of the teams enjoyed the opportunity to play on the AGP, as one parent said “It doesn’t matter about the result, we feel like we’ve already won because we get to play on here”.
True rugby values were on display throughout the day and special thanks and mention should
be made to Ben Morris from Shrewsbury U15s who volunteered as a Young Match Official for the festival, gaining valuable experience in support of the ‘Young Whistlers’ programme which has been set up by the North Mids Referee Society. Thanks also to Will James and his three physiotherapy students who volunteered their time to provide first aid support throughout the day.
With all the preparation and hard work complete, Stourbridge U13s put on a magnificent team performance winning all three games in their pool against Willenhall, Shrewsbury and
Bournville, earning them a place in the Group 1 play-offs. First up was Newport (Salop) who were highly competitive and made a great start gaining an early lead, before Stourbridge came back with some superb team rugby to win 3-1. This earned Stourbridge a place in the Pool 1 final against Droitwich and the opportunity to play for the James Allport Trophy which was excellently refereed by Tom Mitchell, who just happened to stop by, but quickly found himself on the pitch with whistle in hand making him late for his Dad’s birthday celebrations.
Droitwich have had the better success over Stourbridge for the last two seasons so it was destined to be a tough game for both teams but as the sun came out, and with James and his family present to watch, Stourbridge produced some of their finest rugby of the season and went on to win 4-1 against a typically strong Droitwich team.
Dan Rundle, who had been present all morning with Stourbridge supporting the coaches and leading the pre-festival warm up and coaching session, presented the Trophy to Stourbridge in front of James, ending what was a superb day of rugby for all.
by Tracey Packham
Updated 21:09 - 16 Apr 2019 by Mark Denison