Saturday, 10 August 2013

New Zealand wins Rugby 7s & Garda take women’s title at WPFG Belfast

By Volunteer Rebecca McConnell

After two days Rugby 7s action at Queens Sport (DUB), it was time for finals day to determine the 2013 WPFG men from the boys, and women from the girls.

All the matches took place on the Arena, meaning the spectators could enjoy the match whatever the weather under the roof.

It started off dry and warm as the semi finals took to the pitch. After some tight matches and many tackles on pitch, North Vancouver and Welsh Fire made it into the Division 2 final whilst Garda and PSNI won their respective semis in the over 35s league. The Garda’s secret weapon were their wacky socks as each member of the team sported colourful and unusual socks. According to their coach “It’s to make old men feel, young!” A bit harsh when the team is only over 35s!

There was drama during the first women’s semi as the Ambulance needed to come on pitch to assist a Canadian (East) player who took a bad fall during a tackle against the Garda team. As well as St. John’s Ambulance volunteers coming to her rescue, the Italians sent a member of their support team, an orthopaedic surgeon to have a look too. Because of losing a player, the Canadian East didn’t have enough people to continue the match, so the Garda won the semi. In the second semi, team USA lost to Canada West. Later the officials decided to play what should have been a Bronze medal match as a friendly.

Team USA took the bronze and Garda went on to beat Canada West 33 points to nil. To say they were ecstatic to win gold would be an understatement! They were loving it and even had the champagne ready to celebrate on pitch.

Team USA had a PSNI officer helping them out and she was delighted to go home with a medal. “I wasn’t even entered two weeks ago so this is just amazing to have a bronze medal at my home Games. I definitely want to take part in the next ones in 2015.”

The male Garda team also had success beating local team PSNI in the over 35s final 41-5 to take another gold medal with them across the border. Welsh Fire won division 2 title beating North Vancouver Fire 38 points to 10.

In the men’s division 1 final, it was a close encounter between New Zealand Fire and HM Police Service. NZ won the first try and despite taking a 17-0 lead at half time, their coach still shouted ‘dominate’ to spur them on. They had won gold in New York Games in 2011 so were keen to defend their title. In the end, despite resurgence from the British Police team, New Zealand defended their title winning 17-14. Once again, they showed their dominance and strength by performing the Haka to the packed crowds at the DUB.

Logan Martin, captain of the New Zealand Fire team, “Man we’re thrilled! We lost twice on the first day here so it was good to come back and then peak at the right time. It was well worth the trip to Belfast! It was awesome!”

Awesome was a word I heard a lot this week. It was the word a Californian used to describe her pre-Games tour of Ireland, even in the rain, and it was the word I would use to describe the spirit of the Games. As a fellow volunteer said to me this morning, “It’s not just the competitiveness the games are played in that is so impressive, it is the spirit. It is simply fantastic. In terms of the rugby, it is a fraternal brotherhood across the world and it shows in the WPFG too.”

As I left Queen’s Sport, a little saddened that it was my last shift with #wpfgsocialteam, the celebrations for many of the teams had just begun at the bar inside. On driving out of the car park, a guy in a Paris Fire shirt waved to me, he was looking a lift back to his team’s hotel, because his legs were tired and sore. ‘Please,’ he pleaded. Naturally as a volunteer in the ‘friendliest games ever’, I obliged resulting in me leaving not one, nor two, but three Italian fire men back to the Ramada Hotel! They had all swapped shirts with each other during the Games, hence the Paris Fire top. Unfortunately my iPhone’s battery was flat otherwise that would have been a picture to treasure from the Games.

Failing that, I will just have to remember the parting words from the guy in the back who when getting out of my Seat Ibiza said, “Thanks, Rebecca. You’re perfect!” A wonderful and unexpected finish to a brilliant and thrilling few days of volunteering!

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