Letchworth's U17 girls team travelled to Rochford in Essex yesterday to take on the best in East Anglia - and emerged triumphant with their first ever tournament victory.
The Rochford Festival is possibly the oldest - and certainly most prestigious - girls event in the East Anglia, and the only tournament that features virtually every club in the region, large or small.
Last year the U17s entered for the first time and finished sixth in a tournament won by local rivals Welwyn. This year - with a bigger, stronger, and more experienced squad - they went in hope of doing better.
Within 10 minutes of arriving they were on the field against the host team, who were strengthened by players from nearby Basildon. A hard fought battle against a team with the tournament's most powerful pack restricted the amount of ball Letchworth had to play with - but the girls' defence was rock solid a a try near the end saw a 5-0 victory. The remaining group games saw rather more clear-cut victories over the likes of Diss and a combined Saracens/Fullerians team, with Letchworth's Hayley Guilder running in seven tries in the group stages.
By now the sky was growing darker and the rain beginning to team down - in short the conditions Letchworth's girls revel in. Their opponents in the final - Sudbury - had cruised through without conceding a try and the result was a battle royal - at times a muddy stalemate, but a stalemate that was played largely in the Sudbury half. Then right on the stroke of half time, quick thinking from Letchworth scrum half Katie Alcock saw her sneak through a gap from a scrum 10m out and a crucial lead.
Sudbury threw everything at Letchworth's girls in the second half, but some crunching tackles saw the line held firm. The final whistle went - and the rejoicing began.
Meanwhile Letchworth U14s were also having the day of their lives. The very young team did not win the tournament, but finished as the leading Hertfordshire team - ahead of both Welwyn and Hertford. What was all the more remarkable was that this was the first time that any Letchworth girls team had beaten either Welwyn or Hertford in a competitive match, which for girls who have been playing the game for only weeks was pretty impressive.
The U17 finalists meet again at Letchworth on 5th November, but in the meanwhile this Sunday there is an "open" training session that any new girls are invited to, 10.30 to 12.00 for U14s and 12.30 to 2.00 for U17s