BARTON Barbarians lifted the Staffordshire Series Rugby Sevens trophy in style as they beat Tamworth in a tense final – but the day was overshadowed somewhat by a broken ankle for star man Matt Bloxham.
The standard of rugby showcased at Holland Park at the weekend was superb, despite a dramatic change in weather threatening to tarnish Barton’s first attempt at hosting the event.
The host side were desperate to get things right following their dramatic exit at the semi-final stage of the Rugeley tournament last week.
Barton fielded two teams chosen from their senior teams plus guest players from the village and it was Barton Barbarians that stormed through the preliminary rounds, seeing off Rugeley B 22-0, St Joseph’s College 25-7 and Spartans 22-0.
However, coach Simon Hallsworth was forced to rethink his plans after the first game when trusty and reliable forward Bloxham was stretchered off following a freak accident.
Barton faced a strong and talented Burntwood side who defended well against the Barbarians’ repeated attacks, but Barton managed to snatch a 12-0 victory which highlighted the closeness of the encounter.
The second semi-final was between a fast, youthful team from St Joseph’s College in Newcastle and a stronger, more experienced Tamworth side.
Tamworth’s experience and physicality proved too much for the youngsters, despite them scoring a consolation try thanks to their agility and speed with the ball.
Spartans Rugby Club and Rugeley B provided the entertainment for the Bowl Final and although the young Spartans had shown great resilience throughout the knockout stages, the experience and strength of the Rugeley team was a step too far clearly displayed by the 40-5 scoreline.
The Grand Final saw Barton pit their wits against joint favourites Tamworth, and it was the hosts who took the lead with two tries in the first half.
A third try appeared to have sealed it but skipper Matt Knight had to work hard to encourage his team-mates to provide one final push as Tamworth fought back with a brilliant display of patience and speed.
The visitors scored two tries in quick succession, threatening to take the game to extra time, but the tired Barton bodies hung on to their lead and saw out the win 22-19, capping off an entertaining day of rugby.
The stage is now set for Saturday, June 21, when Barton travel to Trentham for the best round of the competition.