Sevens Memories from Former OWRFC Player

Mike Burris

Old Wandsworthians rugby has been based on handling, running and support game, therefore it was logical to see why the seven a side game has attracted players over time. Skills have developed which have steadily increased success in tournaments and as a consequence built a reputation as a team to be respected in old boy’s rugby and subsequently by major clubs.

In the late sixties, the RFU approached OW’s and Old Haberdashers, to enquire if their tournaments, whilst retaining their individuality, could be used to cover South East England as preliminaries for a national Old Boys sevens, as part of the RFU’s centenary celebrations.

This meant that semi-finalists would qualify for the finals. The first tournament was held at Richmond’s ground in 1970, in which OW’s participated. The following year, finals were held at Moseley’s ground in the South Midlands before returning to Richmond in the following years.

The major sevens tournaments, dominated by Middlesex and Surrey RFU’s at the end of the season, saw OW’s gain success against major clubs from the mid-sixties, achieving qualification for the Middlesex and Surrey finals in 1969.

In the latter preliminaries, OW’s beat London Irish and in the finals beat Old Paulines and Richmond, before losing a close semi-final to Rosslyn Park by a single score. The following Saturday OW’s reached their goal in appearing at Twickenham, gaining support of the 50,000 crowd in defeating guest side Cheltenham RFC. Though committed, additional training sessions took place each week prior to the finals at Twickenham. I remember the club being approached by London Regional TV to do a piece on the OW’s 7’s success. Filming took place in mid-week and shown on the Friday evening. The next day the team thought it a good idea to arrive early at Twickenham to get used to the stadium and pitch. The BBC rugby commentator Bill McCalren approached and wanted to talk about our success in reaching the finals. The club members, families and friends did us all proud on that special Saturday in May.

Coaches took us back to Claygate for a celebration of our achievement. Delighted in being selected, the experience has remained very special to me not only on the playing field but also in the spirit, commitment and encouragement that the squad gave to each other on the day…They were key factors to our success.

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