Good evening ladies and gents and welcome to the final blog post of the 2023-24 season as we round up what has been in my opinion one of the greatest seasons overall for Barnstaple Rugby by celebrating our day at Twickenham.  

Before all that we have some exciting news of events coming your way this summer and autumn. First up there is still time to book your ticket for the Barnstaple Rugby awards night on June 1st, which this year is at Portmore Golf Club. 

July 13th see’s the return of the Barumfest, which features juniors and seniors playing side by side in a fun filled 7’s tournament. More details as they come but if you would like to get involved in making this event a special one then contact info.barnstaplerugby@gmail.com 

Then to kick off next season we have Barnstaple Rugby’s first ever Oktoberfest, the date October 12th with beer, food and live music to accompany a fantastic day of rugby. 

 

Papa Johns Community Cup Final. 

 

What a day that was last Saturday, the sun was shining, the Mighty Barum army of supporters were loud, boisterous and amazing as we filled the stadium with a sea of red and white, and the Chiefs played some scintillating rugby in what was the game of the season as Heath themselves also turned up to play. For me it was a special moment being able to photography the mighty Chiefs pitch side at Twickers and I do have to thank the excellent hospitality I was shown by the staff of the Colin Elsey Photographers Room who were brilliant. 

The game kicked off at 5pm to huge roars by both supporters and it was Heath who took the initiative right from the start as they caught the Chiefs flat footed with some quick ball to get it out wide and score the first try of the game with barley 2 minutes gone. Little did we know that this try, scored so early, would be the deciding factor in the game, a rule which I think everyone would deem ridiculous. Be that as it may it was Heath who began the better, but that try did seem to wake up the Chiefs who then piled on the pressure for the next 30 minutes with some great rugby forcing Heath into a series of penalties which moved the Chiefs downfield. 5 minutes later and Tyler was able to score the Chiefs first points with a penalty in front of the posts.  

Immediately the Chiefs were back on the attack as Johny Carter almost went over, just held back in the tackle by the Heath defence. Almost immediately desperate defending stopped Brandon Moore crossing over by the posts and it was looking increasingly obvious that the Chiefs would be on the scorecard sooner rather than later. 

And so, it proved as following several phases a delayed pass from Tyler put JP through and a lovely step put him past two defenders to score Barnstaple’s first try to take the lead and only 15 minutes gone, boy this was going to be a classic. The Chiefs again camped themselves in Heath’s half and were playing some of the best rugby I’ve seen them produce. Against a very good defensive outfit, the Chiefs continued to make ground as the forwards lead by Brandon Moore and Johny Carter continued to punch holes and gain yards, then on the 26th minute Tyler saw the opportunity of a Crossfield kick, perfectly executed, to give Will Topps a fighting chance in the air which he won superbly and then fought his way from the five yard line dragging two tacklers with him as he scored his final try for the Chiefs at Twickenham, what a way to finish your career. 

Heath finally managed to get some ball in the final 10 minutes to score a converted try as the half gave the Chiefs the slenderest of leads 15-14. 

The second half again saw Heath take the initiative early on with two penalties  in the first ten minutes to regain the lead 20-15. Barnstaple regained momentum with some great carries from the pack who continued to make gains every time they held the ball. Beginning at the halfway line and 13 phases later Tyler took a great line fed by Ross Swales to evade 4 defenders with his footwork and score the try of the game under the posts. 

Barnstaple continued straight from the kick off as they advanced the ball to the halfway line and Jake Murphy pumped a kick into the Heath 22 where indecision by the defender allowing the ball to bounce around saw Sam Roberts pounce brilliantly to dot the ball over and extend the Chiefs lead to 20-29. Heath hit back almost immediately as they took a tap penalty from the 5-yard line and the big man crashed through the Chiefs defence. 

By now Heath were enjoying their best sustained possession of the game but still struggled to break the red wall of the Chiefs but a penalty just before the 70-minute mark saw them retake the lead 30-29. Barnstaple almost grabbed the lead back as Ross Swales, chasing his own kick from the halfway line, blocked the Heath clearance to almost get over the line. Tyler got the Chiefs back in front with two penalties to give the Chiefs a 5-point lead. It was however not to last as Heath continued to chase the game and in the last play of the game scored the decisive try that drew the game but ultimately won them the trophy. 

So, a cruel way to end the final and I doubt either team would be satisfied with the outcome. In any event congratulations to Heath in lifting the trophy, maybe next season these two can have a rematch just to settle the debate. What both these teams showed was a tremendous advert for grassroots rugby with a brilliant, high energy, highly skilled rugby match that enthralled the supporters and all those watching the game from home. The Chiefs I feel played some of their best rugby ever in that game and have made Barnstaple a very proud place. What the Chiefs did give us was a fabulous day out at Twickenham, a great game of rugby. By just getting to the final, you gave us Barum supporters a fantastic day out at Twickenham, the way you played and the rugby you produced has given us the greatest of memories that we will cherish forever so thank you Chiefs. 

This also bodes well for an exciting season next September as the Chiefs are not the only ones who have made Barnstaple smile this season as both Athletic and the Buccaneers won league and cup doubles this season to round off what has got to have been the most successful season for Barnstaple rugby in modern times. 

For Athletic it is promotion to 7th tier rugby in Counties 1 and the mouthwatering prospect of local derbies against Bideford Chiefs, I can’t wait. The Buccaneers will again be favourites for the merit table and hopefully defending the Dave Butt Cup. The 2024/25 season has a lot to live up to and it will be another belter if the teams record even half of what they achieved this season. It’s a great time to be a Barnstaple Rugby fan and will continue to be for many years to come I expect.  

Enjoy the summer break and have a relaxing time whatever you are doing and get ready for September. See you next season. 

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