Refereeing the Portugal Youth Festival

Four referees from Ealing, plus one Ealing list referee, formed part of a party of eight from the London Society of Referees who took part on the Portugal Youth Rugby Festival in Lisbon on 26th and 27th March 2010.

Organised by Pete Paterson, he, Mark Lynch, Tim Harrison and Charlie Hodder, plus Dave Garvey, joined the event, organised by Move Sport, in which over 1800 players in the U11-12, U13-14, U15-16 and U17-18 age groups took part. The organisation was excellent, with teams attending from England, Ireland, Wales, Portugal and Spain and Sri Lanka. The teams represented both schools and clubs, including national invitation sides from Portugal (XV Presidente) and Wales (Crawshays).

The quality of the rugby was of a very high standard and provided a fantastic opportunity to referee in a very competitive and demanding atmosphere for two days. The referees worked as ‘teams of three’ with two acting as referee assistants in each game, providing extra pairs of eyes and aiding the referee significantly. We encountered some highly qualified referees from the South West Society, Wales and Portugal who were very knowledgeable and great fun to be with. All the referees had good feedback during the tournament.

The “Silver Fox” (you know who we mean) showed surprising turns of speed and absolute calm, with excellent game management. Dave, Mark and Tim were complimented on the standard of their refereeing. Tim had particularly encouraging comments from Crawshays, the Welsh side, and displayed great positional awareness and empathy for the players. He somehow managed to referee five out of the top six teams at the tournament. Lucky man!

With higher graded referees disqualified from taking the final as a result of their allegiances, Charlie was nominated to referee the grand final of the U18 competition between Bath Youth RFC and the “Crawshays” invitational side. The game was played at a furious pace and was of an extraordinarily high standard (estimated to be circa level 5/6) and included players either playing for or looking for places in the English and Welsh national youth representative sides; one Bath player is already on contract with Gloucester. With several hundred people in the crowd and TV and video cameras rolling, the game presented a huge challenge for Charlie, which (he would like to think) he met with some skill. Bath finally won 22-10, much to the disappointment of Crawshays, who had won the previous year.

We were incredibly well looked after during our stay by our Portuguese hosts to whom we expressed our thanks by partying with them until we dropped. We thoroughly recommend this tournament to teams who are interested in taking part in a high quality competition at the end of the season in a tremendous atmosphere.