Sevens captain Harry Whiteley has set his sights firmly on the national title after helping the Seventy7s maintain their winning run in the inaugural 24/Sevens competition.
The Seventy7s, based in Clapham and Wandsworth, headed to Saracens’ Allianz Park on Sunday for the South East play-offs having enjoyed success at the Graham Robinson Memorial Sevens, one of 32 local qualifier tournaments earlier this summer.
Run by England Rugby, 24/Sevens is an exciting new community sevens series that aims to grow rugby and increase participation among men and women in clubs.
The prize on offer for the winners in north London was a place in the showpiece national grand final event, held on July 24 and hosted by England Rugby back at Allianz Park
And the Seventy7s ensured they will be one of 24 teams bidding for that title later this month after emerging victorious this weekend, overcoming the Red Rockets in a thrilling finale.
It was a family affair for Whiteley’s victorious side, with the spine of the team made up of four sets of brothers, which he felt made a real difference when it mattered most.
“Going to Allianz Park will be incredible,” he said. “It’s a fantastic stadium and one which we can’t wait for and hopefully we can get better and better.
“Playing at Sandy Park is amazing for the guys, a lot of them are from Cornwall so to play in front of so many people just after Great Britain played at the Exeter 7s was fantastic, it was a huge feeling.
“It all seemed to click in the final, we lost to the Turtles in the group stage but we put in a cracking performance when it mattered.
“Our wingers had a great game and the occasion gave us that extra incentive we needed.
“We’ll be missing a few players on the day due to other commitments, but hopefully we can still be a strong team and really show Saracens what we’re made of.”
Next month rugby sevens will make its Olympic Games debut in Rio with Team GB sending both a men’s and women’s team.
There was plenty of talent on show at Saracens on Sunday to suggest that rugby sevens is strong with the Red Rockets finishing runners-up and also earning their spot in the main event.
And for Clapham’s David Birtwistle, it was a bitter-sweet feeling for his Rockets side who played more than their part on a thrilling final.
“These events are fantastic, playing at Allianz Park is a huge draw with not many people getting the opportunity to play here in 15s,” he said.
“That’s a huge incentive and 7s as a sport is developing really quickly and the Olympics will hopefully bring it into the forefront of people who maybe don’t know as much about the sport.
“We’ve seen over the past six years I’ve played it’s developed a lot, thousands of people come to enjoy the sport and the music and it brings.
“We’re reasonably happy with the tournament and hopefully we can learn from our errors.”
England Rugby 24/Sevens, a new exciting grassroots sevens competition for all rugby teams, welcoming anyone who just wants to pick up a ball and run, for fun or glory. Visit www.englandrugby.com/24sevens to get involved.