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A Special Touch

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Saint Ronan’s were crowned National Schools Touch Champions at the inaugural England Touch National Schools Tournament in Canterbury on Saturday.

Although very popular in the southern hemisphere, with over 250 000 children playing each week in Australia, Touch is a relatively new game in England.

Saint Ronan’s entered a team in the Mixed U13 and the Mixed U11 divisions. We had an excellent practice session on Wednesday, with the boys and girls learning the basics such as making and controlling the touch, retreating 5m, and getting the ball back in play quickly once a touch has been made.

We met at Saint Ronan’s at 8:15am on Saturday morning, not really knowing what to expect from the day. Driving up to Canterbury we listened to David Kramer singing about ‘what it feels like to dummy and to sidestep with a leather ball in your hand!’

On arrival at the tournament we were welcomed by the organisers, and we quickly put up our gazebos (thank you N&PP) before the first of the mornings showers hit. We had another training session, and were delighted when the England U15 Coach, Leah, joined us to give us some tips.

The U11’s got the tournament started with William D diving in for the first try! Meanwhile the U13’s played an all boys team, the Canterbury Spitfires from the local rugby club, and went down 0-6 in their opening game. The lessons learnt from this early loss would reap rewards later in the day.

As the day progressed we began to play much better Touch. All our players worked hard to get back onside, and bounced back up on defence to put the attackers under pressure. We were defending as a team, staying goal side and pushing off the attackers with two hands. Covering for each other, staying outside of our opposite player, and being more aware of the space, our defence was now strong and we were ready to challenge for the trophy.

The U11’s played a tough play-off match against St Joanna’s school from East London. The St Joanna’s players were significantly bigger and faster than our children. However Touch is very much a strategic, team game, and while strength and speed are important, they are generally trumped by thought and teamwork. This was a refreshing change from your typical rugby match! Emily H and Hope R did a great job of giving our team width when attacking, and this created space for our middles, Tom H and Jemima S.  Archie W and William D stepped effectively and made some excellent covering touches. Joe F ran some great lines, and was always in support. With a super team effort, we progressed to the final. Our technical skill, co-operation and imagination took us to an exciting 3 touchdowns to 2 victory, and here we are the National Schools Champions!

After their initial loss, the U13’s had been taking huge strides forward, both in understanding and confidence. The wings were Evie T and Lily S. They both stretched the defence wide, and they both showed a lovely turn of pace with the ball in their hand, to run in some great touchdowns. Maddie M played link, carrying the ball forward strongly and linking well with Lily outside her, despite the occasional forward pass! Archie M and Kaspar B were immense in defence, making touch after touch, always on their terms and frustrating the opposition’s attack. In our last two games, which included the final, we did not concede a touchdown. Controlling the attack were Finn K and Sam HC. With eyes up, they picked out weaknesses in the opponents defence, and using fancy footwork and skilful passes they created many of our touchdowns. Archie R, like a general, was always communicating, close in support and ready to pick off a ball-watching defender with a lovely line. Saint Ronan’s dominated the final and we were crowned Best Touch School in England!

A huge thank you to all the parents who came along to support the girls and boys, to Charlie Sloane, for driving the minibus and coaching the children with such enthusiasm. And a massive well done to all the children – we are immensely proud of your fantastic achievement!

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