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Guernsey finish eighth at European Touch Championship

Guernsey finished eighth at last weekend’s European Touch Championships in Wales.

The island was one of 16 nations taking part in the biennial event which is the biggest touch competition in Europe and saw 52 teams compete over four days. Seeded ninth ahead of the tournament, the team eventually finished one place higher in eighth.

Day one saw the group games and Guernsey was the first team to play, taking to field one for a game against Wales, who were always going to be contenders for a finals place. The hosts used their home advantage to score seven in the first half with Guernsey Touch’s coaching director Ollie Ward scoring two diving touchdowns on the back of two well worked set plays. Wales, who eventually finished third, repeated their performance in the second half scoring another seven to give them 14 and Guernsey could only manage one in reply with Iain Thomson diving for the line to score on his international debut.

It was a repeat of the inter-insular in Guernsey’s second game when they took on Jersey. Having won the inter-insular game in June, Jersey quickly took the lead and scored eight in the first half with the greens unable to score. In the second half, it was more even with Jersey scoring six to take their total to 14 and Guernsey scoring twice, the first through Ward doing a quickie move with Aaron Le Masurier and then a sweeper play saw Mark Bristowe add the second. Jersey eventually finished fourth.

Ahead of the tournament, Guernsey had hoped to finish ahead of Italy who are one of Europe’s newest touch nations and the game proved to be a competitive one with both teams evenly matched. Italy went into halftime 2 – 1 up with Ward adding his fourth of the day for Guernsey. In the second half, Laura Mitchell became the first Guernsey lady to score but three more from the Italians saw them win the game 5 – 3.

Day two saw the top two teams from every pool move into the cup competition with the remaining teams, including Guernsey, going into the seeding competition.

The first game was against Switzerland and saw Guernsey gets its first win with a 6 – 4 victory. Ward added to his tally by scoring Guernsey’s first which was followed by one from Fae Clerey, another of the island’s new caps to make it 2 – 1 at half-time. Captain Justeen Baker scored the third on the wing with another from Ward and two from Lucy Holden, another debutant.

The second game of the day was also the second game against Italy. Annie Paul, who at 15 is the youngest player to represent Guernsey in an international touch tournament, scored first displaying some superb ball handling skills by catching a long ball from the middle of the field to score on the wing. Ward scored Guernsey’s second followed by Holden and then Bristowe adding the fourth to give the island a 4 – 2 lead at half-time. The second half was a much tighter affair with Italy scoring early in the second half. Ward scored a quickie and then scooped through the defence before passing to Thomson to score Guernsey's sixth. Italy scored one final touchdown late in the second half to give Guernsey a 6 – 4 win.

Day three saw three games with the first against Germany. In the first half Mitchell scored Guernsey’s first through a scoop before Marie Curutchet, who had been nominated by her team-mates to be flag bearer at the opening ceremony, scored the second with Ward adding the third to make it 3 – 2 at half-time. Sam Ward and Dominic Page scored their first touchdowns of the tournament in the second half with the Germans adding two to their tally to make it a close 5 – 4 win to Guernsey.

Catalonia was Guernsey’s second opposition of the day with Thomson scoring first for the greens followed by Ward with his 10th of the tournament through a penalty but Catalonia scored three to make it 3 – 2 in the first half. Quick plays saw Guernsey add two more but Catalonia had the edge and won the game 7 – 4.

Guernsey then faced France in the seeding semi-final and it was the greens’ biggest defeat in the seeding stage. The French scored five in the first half to give them a comfortable first half lead and then scored another four in the second half with Holden scoring Guernsey’s only touchdown.

Heavy rain and thunderstorm saw games on the final day delayed by over an hour and it was another game against Italy to decide seventh and eighth place. The score reflected the positions the teams were playing for with Italy winning the game 8 – 7 with five of Guernsey’s touchdowns coming from Ward, one from Richard Perrio and one from Thomson.

‘This was a very new team with seven of the 15 players never having played at international level before so they did very well to gain a place in the European rankings,’ said Guernsey Touch chair.

‘They were in a very strong group in the pool stages with two of the eventual top four against them and finishing day one with three defeats was mentally very tough. But they had a great team spirit and came out fighting on day two and that gave them a great start in the seeding competition.

‘We have some fantastic younger players who have come back from their first international tournament full of enthusiasm and so the challenge now is to build on that and aim for a top six finish in 2016.’

Guernsey was also represented by referee Chris Wrigley who was awarded his grade four badge – the highest given to a local referee in the sport’s 10 year history.

The Guernsey team was Justeen Baker – captain, Matt Brehaut, Mark Bristowe, Harry Burns, Alex Clark – coach, Fae Clerey, Marie Curutchet, Lucy Holden, Aaron Le Masurier, Laura Mitchell, Dominic Page, Annie Paul, Debbie Paul – manager, Richard Perrio – vice captain, Iain Thomson, Oliver Ward and Sam Ward.