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China Dragons catch the eye for cup win at an impressive Shelford Sevens festival



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Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834520)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834520)

If you want the perfect end to a festival then it is a try to win the match in the last play of the game.

China’s national team delivered just that with a length-of-the-field break to bring to an end a successful second Shelford Sevens festival.

The event was staged at the Davey Field for the first time last summer, just as the country was emerging from some of the strict rules imposed by the pandemic, and after many rugby players had minimal game time.

It was a hit back then, but went up a level last weekend with the quality of rugby in the men’s and women’s competition both high and captivating.

There were a wide range of teams taking part, with 16 in the men’s social event, 12 in the men’s open and 10 in the women’s open, which led to some fierce and fast rugby.

With four pitches in play throughout the day, it was difficult to know where to watch as if you focused on the main pitch then no doubt there was a story to be told of action on pitch two or three.

Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834557)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834557)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834559)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834559)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834561)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834561)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834563)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834563)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834516)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834516)

The brilliance of sevens rugby is that it is easy on the eye with end-to-end action, and there was no shortage of players pinning their ears back to make length-of-the-field breaks to score.

You were never quite sure who you were watching at any given moment, with the range of names rarely giving an insight into the origins of the clubs, with the odd exceptions such as Cambridge University RUFC women’s team, who won the plate final, Shelford, Cambridge women and, of course, the China national team.

They had entered two sides, the Tigers and the Dragons, and were coached by former England sevens legend Dan Norton, who is the all-time leading try scorer in the sevens series with 358, and former international team-mate Ollie Phillips, who went on to play in the Varsity Match for Cambridge University, and were one of the big draws on the day.

Having made it through to the cup final, the Dragons faced the Pringle Farm Pillagers, who were brought together by event sponsors TheYard@Pringle Farm, and featured the likes of Cambridge’s Ben Adams, Matt Hema and Joey Green.

It was the final match of a long day and the Pillagers went into a 14-0 lead through two converted tries, but China then responded with two converted tries.

Pillagers went back in front through an unconverted try but, inside the final minute, the Chinese turned over possession inside their own 22 and with one dummy step inside, and one outside, they broke the length of the pitch to touch down, and the conversion sealed their win.

Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834565)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834565)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834518)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834518)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834582)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834582)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834543)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834543)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834545)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834545)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834549)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834549)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834524)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834524)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834538)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834538)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834551)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834551)

It was a fitting end to an enjoyable day of rugby – though perhaps not quite for the Pillagers and their many supporters in the crowd – which certainly stands the festival in great stead to grow again next year.

Shelford Rugby Club secretary Mikael Biard said: “We are really pleased with how it all went and the feedback we’ve received from teams and spectators alike was very positive, both in terms of the food, refreshments and music entertainment on offer, as well as the organising of the three tournaments.

“Almost all of the finals were very close, which made it all the more exciting.

“It was such an honour to have had the national Chinese 7s squad attend this year as part of their preparation to try and qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympics and you could see how much winning the final meant to them with that score right at the death against the fantastic Pringle Farm Pillagers to earn them their first 7s silverware.

“Plans are now under way for next year’s Shelford 7s festival where we will look to put on an even better event, so watch this space for news over the next coming months.”

Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834514)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834514)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834506)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834506)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834510)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834510)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834502)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834502)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834512)
Action from the Shelford Sevens Festival. Picture: Steven Illingworth/www.stevenillingworth.com (56834512)

Full results: Men’s open: Bowl - Hammerheads beat The Sappers, Plate - Chinese Tigers 42 Oxfam Crusaders 12, Cup - Chinese Dragons 21 Pringle Farm Pillagers 19. Women’s open: Bowl - UEA 22 Pacific Islanders 10, Plate - Cambridge RUFC 19 Sudbury Sapphires 17, Cup - Hammerheads 52 Shelford 0; Men’s social: Spoon - Beders v Islanders (draw), Bowl - Little Dogs 19 Ten Blokes One Nugget 17, Plate - Peacocks beat Holt, Cup - Richmond Renegades 31 Barbarian Brothers 21.



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