After a long break in competitive club touch rugby for the last 18 months, the European Touch Club Championships 2021 (the ETCC) were held during early December in Elche, Spain.
Our Old Wesley touch team, for the first time ever, headed to Maidenhead for the same competition in August 2019 and stunned the European stage, ending 5th in a highly competitive two-day event – making a name for our club in Europe.
This year our aim was to be as competitive, with even bigger aspirations. We are very lucky that many of our club members are involved with the Irish Men’s and Women’s Open set-up which has elevated the standard within the club. The Open setup also gave our players invaluable experience when game time was limited over the last two years: back in September, we had 22 members of Old Wesley Touch representing Ireland in the Autumn International Series in Manchester. This has created a deep pool of talent from which we were able to draw our 16-player mixed squad for this year’s ETCC.
The first game of a multi-day tournament is always about settling in and getting rid of nerves within the camp, and we did hit the ground running, playing as a unit, supporting each other particularly in our defensive plays. We beat Amsterdam Touch 6-3 in a comfortable first game. We faced a tough French Hurricanes team which we narrowly lost 5-7, and a strong Galaxy London team where we were also defeated. Despite these losses, we rebounded with two big wins against Agraria (Portugal) (9-3) and Leprotti (Italy) (13-3). The experience and drive of seasoned players such as James O’Donnell and Stephen Troy drove the team towards three wins at the end of day one, and thanks to the 10-point lead in our last game, a spot in the top 8.
We drew Toulouse Touch in the quarter final, and faced them early on Sunday morning. Toulouse came out strong and it was a highly competitive game with Toulouse nevertheless coming out on top in a high scoring 14-8 victory. Despite this, we were determined that our tournament was not over, and set our sites on a 5th place finish with two games to go. Next, we met the Scottish Six Pack team which was a highly enjoyable game for both teams, and we finished with a win and a place in the 5th/6th place play off. In our final game of the tournament we met Hurricanes for the 2nd time. Despite going in as the underdogs after losing to them only 24 hours prior, the ambition and energy within the team was remarkable, with the entire team putting in stellar performances. The defensive effort put the Hurricanes under immense pressure and didn’t allow them into the game, forcing them to take the majority of their touches within their own half which cut off many of their scoring opportunities. The pace and diligence of our attacking pods created many opportunities for scoring some superb tries, leading us to a massive 11-4 win to end the tournament in 5th place. Maintaining our position from 2019 and ensuring we will be invited back again next year.
There were outstanding performances from every player on the team, with everyone rising to the occasion despite our losses. We especially want to mention the performances of Luke de Renzy and Alex McGuinness who were voted our most valuable players for the tournament. They both played a pivotal role in our success with their inventive playmaking, exceptional pace and skill, and a flashy tries to boot. It was a great learning experience for the team, and the experience is something we are excited to share with the rest of the club to build on into the future.
There was an excellent showcase of the talent from every member of the team and so we have put together a try-lights video to share our success. You can watch it here: https://youtu.be/8hAAhzkEjyA
Finally, we would like to extend a massive thank you to our coach Brian Leveau for all his support, leadership and guidance both in the build-up and at the tournament. We could not have done it without him, and his dedication to Old Wesley and touch as a sport in general has driven us to achieve such historic success in Europe both at club and national level.
We would also like to give a mention to our Old Wesley 2nd team who headed to Brussels for St Nick’s tournament at the end of November and put on a magnificent performance. Old Wesley came home champions and adding more silverware to the club. They team stunned in a 6-4 victory in the final, having lost to the same team 7-4 at the beginning of the day. We are incredibly proud of how our Touch group within the club is performing on the European stage.
We are hosting our annual Draft Tournament in Energia Park on the 18th of December, where 150 players on 12 teams will take part in our most anticipated social event in the calendar. We expect it to be a great day for all involved, with lots of new faces around the club for an introduction to all Old Wesley touch has to offer. Click here for more.