Men’s 30s European experience
The build up to 2014 European championships began back in late 2013. The training squads were announced and the team met for the first time in Manchester. The next nine months saw the Mongrels (the affectionate self nickname for the M30s), loose some players (Barney, Grant, Pete) and gain some late joiners (Marcus & Simon).
Training was varied and challenging, the highlights included a rugby league world cup finals (Nath is still smiling), giant eagle avoidance (Will still has the scars), last minute calls to London, video analysis, learning the playbook, bromances and many laughs along the way.Tournament Day 1
For several guys this tournament was their first time playing for England and each and every player over the four days stepped up and demonstrated why they deserved to be wearing the England shirt.
The tournament structure for the Mongrels was slightly different to the other England teams due to the lack of M30 teams we were to play in the Mens 35s league for the round robin and then a three match final against the only other M30 team from Ireland.
Game 1 – England M35
Having played against each other several times during the build up to the tournament, the outcome now had something riding on it. It was a strong performance from the Mongrels and set the campaign off to a great start winning 6-1.
Game 2 – France M35
Many of the French team had been part of the victorious European 2012 team including the silver fox. Having played the first game in the morning there had been a lot of waiting around until this game tapped off at 5.20 in the evening. The French had a blistering first half running in 6 scores to 1. Whilst the second half saw a strong fight back from the Mongrels including a period when they were down to five on the pitch and didn’t concede, the gap was too big to claw back with the final result going the way of France 10-6.
Tournament Day 2
Game 3 – Switzerland M35
Feeling refreshed and ready to get back on the winning track, Switzerland were the next challenge. The Mongrels soon found their rhythm and ran out 14-1 winners, big credit must go to the Switzerland players who were relatively inexperienced at touch, but never gave up and did themselves proud.
Game 4 – Ireland M30
This was the first of four meetings between the two teams and was going allow both teams a taster of what could be expected in the three match final. The Mongrels played to their patterns and ran out 10-3 winners, which was hopefully a good sign for things to come.
Game 5 – Wales M35
This game saw the Mongrels play on the show pitch for the first (and only) time. The first half ended 1-1 however the Mongrels were feeling confident having held the Welsh attack away from their line for the majority of the half. The second half however didn’t go as expected and for the second time in two days the late tap off game saw the Mongrels go down 7-4.Tournament Day 3
Game 6 – Scotland M35
The loss at the end of the previous day served once again as fuel for the Mongrels to up their performance and play to their potential. Once again going back to their tried and trusted patterns the Mongrels found their flow and came out victors 16-2.
Game 7 – Final game 1 Ireland M30
The first of the three games was seen as pivotal, the team going to bed one up would definitely sleep better and feel confident going into the final day. The Mongrels played the first half going down hill, but were only a couple of scores up at half time. Confidence in the basics and ensuring that our patterns were followed saw the final score 9-1 in the favour of the Mongrels.
Not resting on their laurels that evening the team undertook video analysis to tighten up on the areas that could be exposed.Tournament Day 4
Game 8 – Final game 2 Ireland M30
Both teams returned to field 3 to recommence battle and luckily managed to avoid the after effects of hurricane Bertha that swept through Swansea in the morning. The Mongrels knew that victory in the morning would seal the title, the Irish knew that winning this game would give them massive momentum going in the third game. The pressure (and the damp ball) showed, with the score remaining close throughout, however the wet weather training from the Manchester NTS/CTS tournament gave the England M30s the confidence and self belief to take the victory and the European Championship 7-3.
Game 9 – Final game 3 Ireland M30
With pride to play for both teams went hard at the game with the Mongrels winning 11-3.
The 9+ months of training culminated in triumph for the Mongrels, which their “sister act” celebrations reinforced.
A massive thank you to Nathan, Marnie and Anna for the hours that you dedicated to the game plan, putting together the moves, coaching and managing us, the extensive questioning that accompanied the video analysis and the herding of the Mongrels which may be even more difficult than cats, not to forget that at the end of it we were all still smiling.
For all players involved it will be an experience that no-one can take away from us.