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83rd All India and South Asia Rugby Tournament, CCFC Kolkata

83rd All India and South Asia Rugby Tournament

 

1st All India Women’s Rugby XVs Tournament

Calcutta Cricket & Football Club (CCFC), Kolkata

Christmas Day 1872, Calcutta witnessed a strange spectacle, the first official rugby match of the country was played on that day between England and a combined team of Scotland, Welsh and Ireland.

All India Women's Rugby XVs Tournament 2016, CCFC, Kolkata

All India Women’s Rugby XVs Tournament 2016, CCFC, Kolkata

144 years later, on 21 September 2016, rugby in India reached another milestone and the Calcutta Cricket & Football Club (CCFC) witnessed the first ever official women’s XVs Rugby match in the country (there have been women’s Rugby 7s match before in the country).

Action between Jungle Crows and YRC at CCFC

Action between Jungle Crows and YRC at CCFC

It was not a single match but a tournament of national level. The inaugural version of the All India Women’s Rugby XVs Tournament was part of the 83rd All India and South Asia Rugby Tournament.

The women version of the game attracted 6 teams from different parts of the country. They were placed in two pools A & B (see above photo).

The teams in each pool played each other in a round robin format. There were 4 points for a win, 2 for a draw and 0 for a loss. For 4 or more tries a team gets 1 extra point. Also if the margin of victory between the teams is less or equal to 7, the loosing team gets a bonus point.

Women's National Rugby 2016, CCFC, Kolkata

Women’s National Rugby 2016, CCFC, Kolkata

In Pool A Odisha emerged the topper with Jungle Crows and Young Rugby Club (YRC) finishing second and third respectively. In Pool B Delhi took the top post followed by CCFC and Bihar.

In the plate (3rd & 4th place match) Jungle Crows defeated CCFC 20 – 0 to finish third.

In the bowl (5th & 6th place match) Bihar defeated YRC 5 – 0 to clinch the 5th place.

In the finals Odisha beat Delhi 20 – 0 to be crowned the first ever women rugby XVs champion of the country. It was not just a victory for a single team but a victory for rugby and of women power!!!

CCFC vs Bihar, All India Women's Rugby XVs Tournament 2016, CCFC, Kolkata

CCFC vs Bihar, All India Women’s Rugby XVs Tournament 2016, CCFC, Kolkata

The inaugural women’s rugby XVs nationals coincided with the 83rd edition of the men’s National and South Asian Tournament. Although rugby, has never been among the popular sports of India but it does have a long and illustrious history spanning for almost a century and half.

Kolkata Police vs Delhi Hurricanes, 83rd National and South Asia Rugby Tournament, CCFC, Kolkata

Kolkata Police vs Delhi Hurricanes, 83rd National and South Asia Rugby Tournament, CCFC, Kolkata

It may sound strange, that since 1879 England and Scotland lock horns in the rugby field for the Calcutta Cup and since 1881 the rugby clubs of Calcutta battle out for the Other Calcutta Cup.

Jungle Crows vs Bhubaneswar RFC

Jungle Crows vs Bhubaneswar RFC

12 teams participated in the 83rd National and South Asia Rugby Tournament, held at the Calcutta Cricket & Football Club (CCFC), from 17 – 24 September 2016.

The tournament was played in a knock out format with 11 matches deciding the champion. The 6 loosing teams in the first round played for the losers plate.

In the first match rank number 1 team Bombay Gymkhana beat Mumbi Magicians to move to the semi finals. In the other two match of the first day CCFC beat Bangalore RFC and Delhi Hurricanes beat Sargent Institute of Kolkata Police. The two winners made it to the next round.

In the first match of the second day Army Red (rank 1) beat Delhi Lions (Rank 12) to make it to the semi finals. In the other two matches of the day Jungle Crows beat Bhubaneswar RFC and Maharashtra State Police (MSP) beat Young Rugby Club (YRC). The two winners made it to the next round.

Format and scores of the 83rd All India and South Asia Rugby Tournament 2016 (click to enlarge)

Format and scores of the 83rd All India and South Asia Rugby Tournament 2016 (click to enlarge)

In the next round Delhi Hurricanes beat CCFC to meet Bombay Gymkhana in the semis and in the other second round match Jungle Crows defeated MSP to meet Army Red in the semis.

Jungle Crows vs Bhubaneswar RFC

Jungle Crows vs Bhubaneswar RFC

Delhi Hurricanes beat Bombay Gymkhana in the semis to enter the finals and Army Red beat Jungle Crows in the other semi.

The six loosing teams of the first round Delhi Lions, Bangalore RFC, Sergeants Institute, YRC, Bhubaneswar RFC and Delhi Lions played for the loser plate with Delhi Lions emerging the winner.

The final between Delhi Hurricanes and Army Red was a grand affair. Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi, Army Commander Eastern Command, who was one of the chief guests.

Also present was Will Glenwright, World Rugby’s Asia and Oceania General Manager. But the star attraction was  Rahul Bose, former India rugby player, who is more known for his exploits on the silver screen.

L: Rahul Bose jugles with the rugby ball. R: Players being introduced before the start of the final

L: Rahul Bose jugles with the rugby ball. R: Players being introduced before the start of the final

Before the match the army band played and Rahul Bose was introduced to the players just before the start of the match.

Army Band plays before the final

Army Band plays before the final

With the crowd cheering crowd it was rugby at its best. Although the Army emerged victorious with a score line of 18 – 5 it was a much more close contested match, than the score line indicate.

Again like the women edition here also rugby was the winner. Rahul Bose during the prize distribution emphasized on the growth of Rugby in India, in the recent years.

He said “From 17,000 we now have 57,000 playing rugby. And in the next five years we are confident 5,00,000 players taking up rugby as a profession. And then like so many Leagues around the world, we will also have a rugby league here in the country.”

Action from the final of 83rd All India and South Asia Rugby Tournament 2016, CCFC, Kolkata

Action from the final of 83rd All India and South Asia Rugby Tournament 2016, CCFC, Kolkata

He also added “Our efforts are bearing fruits. For the first time we had the women’s rugby nationals. We have gone to the tribal belts of Odisha and Maharashtra and people are getting interested.”

The Trophies (L to R): Fair Play Trophy, Looser Plate Trophy, Champions Trophy and Runners Trophy

The Trophies (L to R): Fair Play Trophy, Looser Plate Trophy, Champions Trophy and Runners Trophy

Finally it was time to hand over the trophies. The fair play trophy went to Sergeants Institute. Delhi Lions bagged the losers plate and Delhi Hurricanes the runners trophy. The Army Red received the glittering champions trophy, which has been in use since 1926.

The Champions Army Red, with the trophy

The Champions Army Red, with the trophy

Special Thanks:

  • Paul Walsh and the entire Jungle Crow family for introducing me into the world of rugby.
  • Calcutta Cricket and Football Club (CCFC) for allowing me to photograph the Calcutta Cup 2014 and helping me with all sorts of information
  • To all the rugby players and enthusiasts from all over India

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