SIXTEEN teams from across the county arrived at St Austell RFC's Tregorrick Park on Sunday for the Under 9s County Festival.
There were 12 players per squad for seven-a-side games of full contact rugby featuring both boys and girls.
The teams were drawn into four pools consisting of four teams, with points being awarded for wins, draws and bonus points for four tries scored and losing by five tries or less.
This year's Under 9s are playing different rules to previous years. In the first year of contact rugby, with under 8s playing tag rugby, it was felt that the players should concentrate on the tackle without having to worry about scrums, line outs and the like.
It has worked very well and we have seen some very good competitive rugby all season. The game plays a lot like rugby league with a six tackle turn over and the usual infringements of knock-ons, forward passes and going into touch applying.
Play starts with a free pass as there is no kicking at this level, with the opposing side starting seven metres away. The games were six minutes each way and depending on the position each team finished in the pool would determine what semi-final would be played for, Cup, Plate, Vase or Bowl.
St Austell were in pool 1 and drew Truro, Helston and local rivals Lankelly. Fielding a 10 man squad they started against Truro. The mini Saints got off to a flyer by winning 10 tries to 1.
Lankelly Fowey beat Helston, St Austell's next opponents. Helston fought well and the Saints didn't have it all their own way but toughed out a 4-2 win.
Lankelly beat Truro to leave both teams on ten points and a thrilling game to see who would be pool 1 winners and go on to play in the Cup competition and who would play for the Plate. Saints would need to be on top of their game to beat Lankelly who despite the size of their club are a very useful outfit. An absolute cracker of a game followed, Saints scored first and Lankelly responded in kind.
The tackling was fierce and the play end to end, two more tries apiece and a half time score of 3-3. Although Lankelly still played hard the Saints found another gear in the second half and played arguably the rugby of the tournament running in five unanswered tries.
Saints topped the group with the maximum 15 points and progressed to the semi final of the Cup competition.
Newquay had won pool 3 and would be the Saints' next opponents in the semi-final. Saints scored an early try but Newquay came back strongly and there was no way they were going to roll over for the home side.
A 2-2 half time score meant the game was in the balance. Newquay started the second period stronger and got their noses in front but the Saints fought back to level the scores at 4-4 with the final play of the game. The Saints progressed to the final courtesy of scoring first.
Redruth were the other finalists after defeating Saltash in the other semi and yet another epic battle was to follow. Big tackles and strong running from both sides saw Saints 3-1 down at half time and with a try from the off to the Saints, the lads were right back in it.
It was a hard uncompromising game but Redruth were just a bit stronger on the day, ending up 6-3 winners.
It was a bitterly cold day but all games were played with great determination and within the spirit of the game. Rugby is a fantastic sport to give confidence, learn respect and make lifelong friends.
Most clubs have mini and junior sections and although the season is nearly over, September will soon be here, so why not get to your local club and give it a go.
A huge thank you to everyone who helped to make the day such a success and to Seaton Associates for the match balls, St Austell Brewery for supplying the bottled water and Tash Spencer of Tesco St Austell, who provided the lunches for the players and presented the trophies.