The Islay Beach rugby tournament is gaining more popularity with each year and last weeks event broke all records so far. If this continuous the island's population will double in a couple of years time at the then beach rugby tournament. I already heard that the ferries were fully booked until the last seat during the rugby weekend. Some tourists must have had mixed feelings when they were waiting at Kennacraig not knowing about the tournament. Wasn't Islay that peaceful tranquill island? Every day of the year perhaps but not on Saturday 13th of June 2009!
Last Saturday 500 sportsmen came together for a day of rugby and camaraderie for Islay Beach Rugby. It was the biggest single event held on the island with 2000 people attending the 2009 festival to watch an unprecedented 32 teams playing rugby including 10 ladies teams. The weather was hot and humid - at least at first. Then just plain humid (briefly torrential), before finally becoming particularly hot and sunny again as the competition wore on. The atmosphere was superb, with families picnicking, girlfriends sunbathing, children paddling and the menfolk cheering the rugby, impressively organised by Islay Rugby Club. The games took place on the beach at Port Ellen in front of the White Hart Hotel where a tented village for the 500 competitors and associates had sprung up on friday evening. Continue reading.....
The 3 sand pitches, uniquely interpreted by Islay Beach Rugby, are only 25 metres by 20 metres. The onus is thus on physical confrontation as well as dextrous ball-handling. The two halves were only four minutes each, but the lack of purchase on the sand under barefeet, and the speed of the game made for unsually exhilarating, if exhausting, sport. Islay Rugby Club president Simon Coughlin, a director of Bruichladdich Distillery, explains: 'The sand is such a great leveller. It surprises some of the bigger teams that come here. A number of Premier One players said these games were as tough as anything they had experienced during the regular season. Because there is little space, simply being clever is not going to get you too far. Okay, a good pass might create a bit of space, but you have to muscle it too.'
The Laddie Cup winner was the Black Bottle invitational team beating Loch Lomond 9-4 in the final. The Lassie Cup winner was Hillhead, beating Cartha Queen's Park 7-1. In the secondary competitions, for the runner up teams knocked out in the group stages, the men's shield was won by Kilchoman and the bowl by Trinity Muir. The disco on Friday night and a ceilidh on Saturday after the tournament were both packed to the rafters, with post-match celebrations carrying on late in to the night.
The festival is as much a social event as a rugby gathering: a classic Islay event. It is both raucous and laid-back; everyone has a great time, yet everyone behaves themselves. Islay police were pleasantly surprised to witness 500 men and women enduring so much high-octane partying without a single incident at the Bruichladdich sponsored event. But this is the rugby way: 32 teams of players, some meeting for the first time, others renewing old acquaintances, united under the Islay spirit and the rugby ethos.
A well deserved cooling down