Wed 03 Mar 2021 22:13

There has been bad news and hopefully good news during the past fortnight for Pocklington rugby.

The bad news was the sad but inevitable confirmation that the club has had to cancel the Good Friday 'Pock 7s' for the second year running. But there was hope on the horizon that Pocklington might still get some Saturday rugby action in the next few months.

The Pock 7s is the highlight of the sporting year, with teams coming to Pocklington from all over the UK and supporters jetting in from across the globe for an annual Easter rugby reunion. However, the first Pock 7s in 1959 was quite parochial, with the eight teams including a side made up of players who lived on Denison Road, and another from Market Weighton, before a seven from Goole RUFC who had local connections lifted the title. They won a barrel of beer, but that was subsequently replaced by the WS Fowler Challenge Cup, which had started out life as a tennis trophy - the rugby club once had tennis courts where the far car park now is - it was re-engraved for the sevens winners.

From those small beginnings the event has grown into a special of six hours of non-stop rugby action and socializing every Good Friday afternoon, rain or shine. Some clubs have regularly sent sides with no real ambition or intention of winning, or even getting through the first round - they were just there for the occasion. But the standard of sevens rugby has also improved immeasurably through the years, with some teams including top quality players in the lineups.

Mike Harrison, who captained England in the first Rugby World Cup, was in the Wakefield side that won successive titles in 1994 and 1995, while British Lions Peter Winterbottom, John Bentley and Alex Cuthbert are amongst numerous full and sevens internationals to have played in the event.

It has also attracted players who are better known in other spheres, including actor Ralph Ineson, of ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘The Office’ fame, BBC news roving reporter Al Leithead, and Jonny Bairstow, who starred at Percy Road as a teenager before concentrating on his cricket career.

In addition the tournament draw has seen some of the game’s top names support it. Half of England's 2003 World Cup winning team have pulled the entrants out of the hat, including Jonny Wilkinson (twice), Lawrence Dallaglio and Martin Johnson, along with overseas legends Va’aiga Tuigamala and Raphael Ibanez.

The cosmopolitan flavour of the day has been enhanced in recent decades by a number of South Sea island sevens’ specialists, and in 2009 the trophy went to the Covenant Brothers RFC from Fiji – the team being made up of Fijians serving in the army in Britain. As the host club, Pocklington made several gallant attempts, but more often than not, Pocklington flattered to deceive and went out early on, until it finally came right for them in 1996 when the club’s then player coach and Welsh international, Gary Pearce, led them to a first Pock 7s title after 38 years of trying. And Pocklington did it again two years later when they beat favourites and holders, Newcastle Falcons’ academy side, in the rain to once more lift the Fowler Trophy. More recently, Pocklington won the Plate competition in 2011 and 2013.

But there will be no names on the trophies for 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, with next month's bank holiday likely to follow last year's when player's and supporter linked up to share a drink on Zoom in a virtual reunion. Nevertheless the club is determined to make the event return with a bang on Good Friday 15 April 2022.

While the 2021 Pock 7s is restricted to memory, there is better news about some sort of rugby action this season. The Westminster announcement that team sport could restart on 29 March includes rugby union, and the RFU has been working with the government on the detail of a resumption for both professional and community clubs, saying: "This is good news for the game and for players, coaches and volunteers across the country, who will once again be able to enjoy the physical and mental health benefits of being involved in team sport. We will work with DCMS on Covid protocols for the community game, including the format of rugby that will be permitted in return to play."

In anticipation of some in the not too distant future, possibly a delayed ten-week 'Coast & Wolds' mini league of six local clubs, beginning at the start of May, Pocklington will resume training on the evening of Tuesday 30 March, all players welcome at all levels from first team squad to lower sides.

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