Since 1980, the club has never participated in a 7s tournament. Historically the club has been known for its strong forward pack, but this weekend saw Vale's back line take the limelight! With some help from players from Wheatley Hills RUFC, a squad of 10 took part in the South Yorkshire Grassroots 7s at Hemsworth RUFC. Teams from across Yorkshire at Yorkshire 3 and below (the equivalent of Midlands 4) Not knowing how the lads would fare, the day initially set out as a good social and a throw about... this mindset soon changed after the first kick off...
With only 15 minutes of 'training' coming from Owen Taylor and guest James Currie (Wheatley Hills), the lads played Yorkshire 3 side Skipton in their first game. After a strong start with a try straight from kick off, the lads switched on! A great attacking performance, dictated by the Vale lads throughout. With a colossal 4 tries from Owen Gillvray (Wheatley Hills), a brace from Jackson Clark and tries from Jordan Duffus and Ryan Bingley, extras coming predominantly from Ricky Gleeson. The game finish 50-0 after the fourteen minutes, and the whole competition was looking at Vale as potential favourites for the Cup!
After a short break, the lads went on to face Sheffield Vulcans, an inclusive gay rugby team based in the city who started only last season. This was also their first experience of the 7s game. The gulf in experience between the two teams showed quickly, and after the first 7 minutes, Vale had ran in 6 tries. The first half finished with a 60 metre break for the Vulcans, but were cut short by some great last ditch defence. The second half, Vulcans had much more of the ball and Vale had to defend for 2-3 minutes, the first time they had really had to so far. However, they were well contained, and once the ball had been regained, they were back in the driving seat. A final score of 59-0, with braces from player-coach Owen Taylor and young Mitchell Parker, a hat-trick for Skipper Jackson Clark alongside individual tries from Ben Gwillim and Josh Henstock. 2 games, 17 tries scored, 0 points conceded.
Next up in the final league game, Vale faced Hemsworth B team. A rough side made the lads work hard in defence for the first time. By half time, little defensive structure put a lot of pressure on the Vale, only to be redeemed by superb man on man defence, with nobody backing down in the first 7 minutes. A quick chat at half time to rally the team's concentration, and the hard work began again. The game ended 31-0 to Vale, and another clean sheet. Another brace for Jackson Clark and Ricky Gleeson with a single dot down for Ben Gwillim, who's kick offs had allowed the lads to retain a lot of their ball, alongside the hard work of Ricky Gleeson, who was superb in the air.
Unfortunately, the draw meant that only a 5 minute turn around was allocated for the lads before the cup quarter final. This would be against another Yorkshire league side, Leeds based Burley RUFC. Two early tries for Meden Vale (one from Clarke and one from Gillvray), and some may have thought that it would be business as usual. But this wouldn't be the case. With lots of young players with excellent feet, Burley really pressured the Vale defence, and they were broken for the first time in the day, conceding their first try at the end of the second half. Heads stayed high, and the side went in at half time 12-5 up. The second half, and having lost James Currie at this point, the total body count for the Vale was down to 9, and this was beginning to tell. Burley conducted the second half in a clinical fashion, dictating the play and applying the pressure to the Meden Vale defence. They finally broke again, and having converted their conversion the scores were 12-12. After the allotted 14 minutes, the scores remained at 12-12, meaning extra time... not what the lads needed! Almost immediately from the kick off, Burley ran in from 30 metres, and it looked like this would be it for Vale. But at half time, the boys rallied together and worked hard for the last 25 minutes. A line out 10 metres away from the try line came down, and simple hands in dead time and lightening pace from Owen Gillvray meant a 90 metre score tied the game with the last kick of the game. After just getting it over the sticks, Vale won 19-17 in the last play of the game.
Next up was the cup semi final against Hemsworth RUFC, the home side. Both sides had won their group and this was set to be a tough game. After a tough battle, this was to be the Midlands side's first defeat. After being at 14-14 for much of the game, and having now lost Mitchell Parker to a hand injury, the legs were starting to get heavy, and an interception try for Hemsworth was enough to be the straw that broke the camel's back. It certainly was a 50/50, with Vale in the driving seat at this point, and an almost certain try for the lads would have been the result should the pass had landed in Black and Red hands, instead it found a blue and white one. 24-14 the final score, with Owen Gillvray getting both tries for Meden.
Thinking the day was done, the lads went to get changed, only to be told that they had made it through to the final of the Plate. Great news that silverware was up for grabs, bad news that the 8-man side were as good as spent! But after a 30-40 minute break, the lads tried to rejuvenate themselves and rekindle some of the enthusiasm they had at the start of the day. This game saw one of the ties of the day, with Ricky Gleeson scoring directly from a restart, somehow managing to stay in field, before banging the conversion himself. However, 8-men was not enough to face the fresh youthful Rotherham Phoenix, who play their rugby in Yorkshire 3. The game ended 31-14, just a bit too much for the lads after a long day. The tries came from Gleeson and another for Gillvray. Despite the loss, the lads walked away with the runners-up prize of £100 in vouchers, which will be incredibly useful for this season!
After a player vote, Ben Gwillim was voted player of the tournament, backing himself a couple of tries, but his work and precision at the restart made it easy for the lads to play the attacking rugby that amazed the crowd. 175+ points scored and 29 tries, the lads played an amazing brand of attacking rugby. Key mentions to Owen Gillvray who was the top try scorer on 9 for the day, and to Skipper Jackson Clark, who grabbed himself 8! A great day was had by all, with Meden Vale being put on the rugby map for many Yorkshire sides, and a new format of rugby which will definitely be played again by the Meden Vale lads! Thanks to everyone who played, helped and supported the lads, a great warm up and attitude for the upcoming season.