On one weekend in June every summer one of Lancashire’s premier sevens festivals takes place in Tarleton, near Preston – the Skofic 7s.
With the summer sevens season now in full swing, teams from all over the north came to Tarleton Rugby Club and enjoyed a fantastic display of rugby sevens and a brilliant festival atmosphere.
Now in its third year, the Skofic 7s was the creation of Tarleton Rugby Club and the Skofic family, in memory of Jack, Max, Archie, George and Frankie’s late father John – who sadly passed in 2011.
All proceeds from the event go right back into the rugby club, helping to improve Tarleton in a number of ways, particularly their facilities – namely, the brand new SPS Clinics Physio suit.
As ever, the Skofic 7s is a local festival with rugby at the heart of it. Since the inaugural tournament back in 2012, the amount of participating teams has rapidly increased from 12 to 21 this year, across three different standards (elite, open and social) – a real testament to the success of the event and its organisers.
On the 7th of June the teams were ready, the crowds were out in force, the drinks were flowing and the music was playing in anticipation of some great rugby sevens, and although the weather wasn’t on our side at the very start, the sun soon came out and capped off a fantastic day.
“We try and create the summer, carnival atmosphere,” said Jack Skofic, one of the event organisers, “with the music, the BBQ and the drinks tent we try and make it a complete package you'd look to find in a day out.
“Somewhere people can go, rugby enthusiasts or not, to enjoy the sport as a spectacle and just have a good time.”
The men’s elite competition was competed by eight teams, who were split into two leagues of four.
In the first group were Red Panda, Myerscough College Old Boys, Durham University and Caldy. On the other side, in the second group was Waterloo, RGC, Elsemere Old Boys and eventual winners Sandbach.
Having such a wide variety of teams, from the elite right through to the social, is a real credit to the recruitment of the event organisers and their dedication to the event.
“There's three major avenues we look for really” when recruiting teams, Jack Skofic explained, “one is to look for the teams we've had in previous years and hope they've enjoyed it enough to come again, friends of ours, friends of the club or teams in Tarleton’s leagues throughout the senior setup, and now more than ever, the use of social media, via Twitter primarily, to attract teams from slightly further afield.”
After a fantastic illustration of top-class rugby throughout the group stages it came down to the elite final between Sandbach and RGC.
Both teams fought hard after a tough, long day of sevens rugby, but with the sun finally out and a brilliant festival atmosphere from the touchline, it was Sandbach who proved too strong for RGC and emerged eventual 39-12 winners.
Sandbach Captain Will Cargill, who also led Leeds Met University to the BUCS final at Twickenham, said that “it was a fantastic day for us.
“We played really well together; I think because it was our third tournament this season we had bonded together and started playing some really good sevens.
“I think we just had fresher players in the final, having used our subs pretty well throughout the day, as they started to tire towards the end of the game. A few of their players then went off injured and we didn’t have any injuries – I think that made a big difference to us.”
Speaking about the Skofic 7s as a whole, Will spoke for all of the Sandbach team by saying that it was a “brilliant day. The music going on throughout the day was good, the food as well was great; obviously the weather wasn’t great at the start but the day went ahead and it eventually came out for us.
“It was a really good day out, everyone enjoyed it, had a good time and we will definitely be there again next year.”
RGC Team Manager William Morecombe was there with the RGC team all day, who continually impressed throughout the groups and knockouts, but unfortunately fell short in the final.
“It was really well organised and really well run; everything ran to time, which is a bit of a surprise for a sevens tournament.
“What was really nice about the day was that there was an elite competition, an open and a social competition as well – who were all just there for a good day. I thought the day really encapsulated all the best about rugby, really.
“It was a really good atmosphere and by the time we got to, certainly the final and I think the semi-finals too, the weather was dramatically improved and it turned into what was actually quite a nice afternoon.
“One thing that was also nice was that the pitches were in great nick. They were really good playing surfaces to play some sevens on.”
Elsewhere, Caldy took some silverware home with them as they won the elite plate competition, after missing out on the Cup semi-finals.
In the Open competition we saw a repeat of last year’s final as the Skofic Select side took on Calavera RP sevens. The Skofic side were fastest out of the blocks and stormed to a five try lead, before Calavera fought back with a couple of their own; however, it proved to be too little too late as, for the third year in a row, the Skofic Select took the Open Crown.
Finally, in the social competition it was local team Hutton who emerged victorious beating a Preston Grasshoppers Social side in the final.
“I think now the tournament is in its third year we have homed in a lot of our ideas about the competition; what people want at these types of events and what we as a club at Tarleton can deliver on,” Jack concluded.
“From that we can try and make the day run as smoothly as possible from our side, and let people enjoy the rugby, structuring the three competitions to run as smoothly as possible.
“Unfortunately the weather this year was a little wet to begin with, but I think after the past two years of extraordinary sunshine, we were scheduled a rainy tournament as this one proved to be but that didn't dampen the rugby spectacle.
“The huge positive from our point of view was the competition carried on regardless and we were rewarded with clear skies and sunshine in the Open and Elite finals.
“21 teams participated, in three competition tiers of varying ability and people came to watch, so it was a resounding success from our point of view.”