As some of you will know, last year I ventured out of the safety of touch rugby and into 7s, taking a trip down to Brighton with some of the girls from work for our FIRST EVER WORK FEMALE RUGBY TEAM (yeap, we are all over gender equality) and you know what, it wasn’t that bad, I didn’t break any bones and I think I kind of enjoyed it. It was sunny, there was beer and I learnt a lot of things – which you can read about here
Well, moving on a year, I’m no longer in the same job, but because I am therefore ‘alumni’, I am allowed to come back and play (plus, there still aren’t really quite enough girls…so I sort of had to)…but this year we kept it closer to home, opting for Summer Social in Richmond instead, which has grown from being a rugby festival to a ‘loads and loads of different sports’ festival. Kate O’C was gutted she couldn’t make it. So I will try not to rub in how much fun it was.
As Summer Social is of a pretty decent size (and because it started as a rugby tournament), there are several levels catering for all – Elite (men’s) , Open, Social and Ultra Social (men’s and women’s). Not entirely sure why the Women’s Open wasn’t just classed as elite, considering it included Scotland, Wales and a GB side…but oh well. On the plus side, this means that for a novice women’s team, you aren’t lumped against people who have been playing for years, which is the case for some tournaments where you can only get enough for one level (or so you think anyway)
Winding back a few hours…an early start was had as we had been at a rugby club ball the night before – surprisingly, my boyfriend choosing not to drink because he had to drive me to a 7s tournament the next morning. I however, did drink, despite having a 7s tournament the next morning. And moving swiftly on…
We arrived at Richmond, parked up and waited for the girls and SHINY NEW KIT! This was fairly exciting considering last year we just used our touch kit, which isn’t actually ideal for contact. Also, an extra gem – it matched my boots!
Our first game was against Windsor. We lost.But we went in with not much structure or plan, hoping to use it as a warm up and then talk tactics afterwards. Which we kind of did. It was a learning curve – I remembered that tackling isn’t that difficult and falling over doesn’t hurt that much. And that it’s hard to talk with a gumshield!
The problem with there being so many games and general popularity of the tournament (men’s elite, open and the three women’s tournaments are at Richmond Athletic Ground, with men’s social being at Old Deer Park) means that there is a bit of waiting around between games – especially if the opposition never turns up. So our next game (Kingston) wasn’t for a good 3 hours! We took the time out here to indulge in healthy intra-game snacks (chips, pizza and the like) and actually run through some moves, covering the breakdown, defending as a line and a couple of set pieces.
Our next game was against Kingston rugby club and our practice showed! I don’t know what the score was…but we won! Boyfriend was also at this point promoted to subs manager, which took a layer of pressure off us from trying to think about playing and subbing.
Our third game was against the Pink Rinses (one of the well-known Pink Ba-Bas team, who are regularly on the 7s circuit) These women knew their rugby. Discovered afterwards that there were several ladies with MULTIPLE national caps in there, which explains a lot. This game was less ultra social and more stressful. I mean we lost by a chunk, but we played a cracking game considering their level of experience (lots) against ours (not quite as much) – and their coach said we stuck up for ourselves well.
We finished up against Roehampton Uni, which was a nailbiter, finishing 26-22. Unfortunately to them. But it was a cracker, we won scrums (probably why my neck hurts so much) and everyone really put their all into it.
So then a quick shower and onto the evening! Because we didn’t finish until far gone 6, it was clear the other sports had been at the bar for a good few hours, so we played catch up and ended up in Infernos. Win. Summer Social has a real festival atmosphere, the DJs are awesome and anywhere with a live saxophonist has my vote. Plus, despite the crowds, the bar queues were totally acceptable.
So, what did I learn as an experienced (ha!) 7s player?
- The fear before a game is much worse than the actual game. I DREADED the 10 minutes pre-match, especially being told I was starting (because #experience), but as soon as I was on…it was OK
- Do not be intimidated by size. We aren’t a particularly big team, and some of the others were. It’s fine. It’s easier to predict direction. You can run round them.
- National level players drop the ball – you can watch the women’s elite and there are still dropped catches, bad passes and the odd missed tackle. So if the pros do it, it doesn’t matter so much if you do it.
- There will be bruises. The bruises will grow and grow and grow. And be blue (coordinated with boots/kit)
- Accidents happen – having an air ambulance land on the pitch next to you is less than ideal, especially when you are already a tiny bit stressed. But, the majority of rugby games do not result in air ambulances, so do not worry. (Side note – it appears the guy who it was for is recovering well)
- Being first on the score sheet is a nice little buzz. You will also surprise yourself by backing yourself to score. And then worry EXTENSIVELY about not dropping the ball over the line!
- No matter how hard you try, your parents will want to come and watch. Your mother may not actually watch that much though due to the stress of watching tackles, despite having put up with it on a weekly basis for 31 years already…also note, your parents will manage to know LOADS of people there.
- Bank Holiday BBQ line out practice will pay off. This was literally our best moment of the game when it a) worked b) no-one dropped it and c) we scored off it. I am gutted we have no evidence so you will just have to believe me!
- You will hurt a lot afterwards. Going open water swimming the next day is not advisable. Nor a duathlon 3 days later.
- You may end up eating 3 portions of chips in one day. And little else. And accidentally forgetting the calories in cider.
- It is physically possible to get home, have two people showered and dressed within 15 minutes and then be in an Uber.
- You will ache for days later. To a point where all you can physically do is nap on Wimbledon Common. This is totally acceptable. Apparently ‘you get used to it’
- 7S IS INCREDIBLY FUN AND YOU SHOULD ALL GO AND PLAY IT!