Midlands Tigers have the better of Youth and Junior Nationals
The 2023 domestic season closed with the Midlands Tigers having the better of the Youth and Junior Nationals at Nottingham’s Riverside Sports Complex.
Bathed in sunshine throughout the weekend, Riverside played host to 23 teams from across the country, the largest Youth and Junior Nationals staged by England Touch. With competitions in the 14s, 17s and 19s age categories, one eye was definitely on the future and the following year’s England representative teams.
The Mixed 19s title was played out between the Midlands Tigers and North West across a three-game series. All three were closely-fought affairs, with no more than three tries between the teams in any of the games. However at the end of the day, and with wins of 11-9, 7-4 and 7-5 the trophy went to Midlands Tigers, with Cambridge’s Harry Missin the MVP.
The remaining categories – Girls 17s, Boys 17s, Girls 14s and Boys 14s – were all played out across the two days.
The Girls 17s title went to West Wildcats, for whom the international experience of Cara Edwards, Eloise Hillebrand, Maisie Rosewell, Poppy Riddleston and Libby Steele proved crucial. The Wildcats went through the pool stages undefeated, with their closest win being against South East Taipans, 3-2. So it was appropriate that the two teams also met in the final, the Wildcats prevailing 3-0. While the Wildcats took the medals the MVP went to the Midlands’ Louisa Sambell.
The Midlands Tigers Boys 17s were also packed with players who wore the national shirt at the Atlantic Youth Touch Cup earlier in the summer, including Archie Devlin, Ben Lucraft, Ellis Pearce, Ellis Watts, Ethan McGillivray, Finn Clements, Ollie Simon, Sam Dean and Will Mellor. Watts also played in the Men’s Open Gold-medal winning European Championships team in Vichy, and was named MVP at Riverside. The Tigers were undefeated, but did not have a 100 percent record thanks to a 6-6 draw against West Wildcats Orange. However they put that straight with a 5-3 win in the final.
Midlands Tigers also won the Girls 14s title with a perfect weekend that included five wins and a try difference of +25 in the pool stages, and comprehensive wins over West Wildcats (6-0) and South East Sharks White (8-2) in the semi-final and final respectively. The Tigers may have had international players in Ella Dean and Imogen Loveridge, but it was the Sharks’ Jessie Yarker who took home MVP honours.
In the Boys 14s category the North West Bulls led the way from beginning to end with a perfect record in the pool stages and then wins over Midlands Tigers (8-2) and South West Saxons – who had been the Bulls’ closest rivals in the round-robin – 6-2 in the semi-final and final. MVP went to Ffion Wheatley from the North West’s other team, the Broncos.