The day after the northern lights swept across the night skies of the UK, we were treated to another breath-taking sight as 60 teams from all 13 Try Tag Rugby regions, plus Cork, descended on the University of Warwick to battle it out for the title of national champions across five different categories. In perfect conditions for tag rugby the honours were split between three London regions with North London winning two categories for the first time. The tournament live stream racked up over 12,000 views across the six sessions of Pitch 1 and 2 action shown on TTR’s YouTube and Facebook pages in a promising sign of the growing appeal of the sport amongst a wider audience.

Tale of the Tournament
The Nighthawks’ victories came in Women’s Open and 33s, the former a culmination of year on year improvements by the region that finished runners’ up in 2022, the latter the distinction of being the first name on the winners’ shield in the newest Nationals category. Just as North London were flawless across the Women’s competitions so too were East London in the Men’s, defending two of the three titles they won a year ago in Richmond. The Eels remain the only region to have won the Men’s 38s category, bringing up a hat trick of victories in Coventry, while their Men’s Open triumph is their third in four years. South London Seals extended the most dominant run of success the tournament has seen with their fifth Mixed Open win in a row – Rich Milford and player-coach Tom Entwistle the ever-presents in the side’s dynasty.

Yorkshire White Roses were the only region to reach the semi-finals in all five categories and came within a whisker of toppling South London in the highest scoring of the Grand Finals – all of which were decided by two points or less. North London were not the only region that had their best tournament to date, with Thames Valley reaching the semi-finals of both the Mixed Open and Men’s 38s categories. Their Mixed Open results suggest a bright future for the region with the average age of the side one of the lowest in the competition. Brighton & Hove Dolphins made a splash in their Nationals debut with all three of their sides picking up a maiden win. On home ground, Coventry & Warwickshire Hurricanes had a strong showing, reaching the quarter-finals of the Mixed Open competition, winning the 9th-14th place playoff in Men’s Open and finishing sixth in Men’s 38s.

Cork Chiefs were the first invitational side to travel over from Ireland as well as the first to enter sides into all three Open’s categories. Their Men’s and Women’s sides achieved impressive results against the top UK regions, finishing fifth and sixth respectively.

All players, referees and staff came together for a minute’s silence before the afternoon session to pay tribute to Mariska Loots on the same day as her memorial service took place in South Africa. The talented player, inspirational coach and wonderful friend to the international tag community will be greatly missed by all who knew her.

Try Tag Rugby would like to thank the University of Warwick and Varsity Pub for hosting the tournament and after party; our referees and referee coaches; the food and drink vendors Lil Watan, Aroma and Cabuccino; Local Medics and Ambulance Services for their first aid provision; our photographers Gary and Ben, our videographers Bader Media Entertainment and our streaming partners 247.tv. We would also like to recognise the incredible contribution of all the volunteer coaches across the country as well as the Regional Managers for their work that allowed the players to put on an incredible display of tag rugby.

Grand Finals
The first Grand Final saw the defending Men’s 38s champions line up against an unexpected opponent – North London Nighthawks had knocked out pre-tournament favourites South London in the quarter-finals on their way to their first appearance at the business end of the category. As in previous years the final was a tight, low scoring affair with two East London scores on the right flank the only margin between the two teams. Ben Payne scored in the opening minutes before Jack Williams followed up near the midway mark of the match. The Nighthawks toiled valiantly to find their own way over the line and looked like springing a late comeback when Paul Evitt shot downfield with a superb turn of speed but ultimately it was not to be for the Grand Final debutants. The two teams came together for an on-pitch photo after the whistle in a display of sporting friendship that was then replicated in each subsequent final. The Eels Men’s 38s were the first of the winners to earn their post-tournament drinks, accompanied by a shield that still bears their region’s name alone.

In its debut year, the Women’s 33s Grand Final offered North London an immediate opportunity to ease the disappointment of the narrow loss in the Men’s 38s. The region’s only previous title had been a stirring Men’s Open victory in 2019 but their Women’s 33s side came out of the blocks looking as though winning titles was their day job. Player-coach Breeda Mac Eoin opened the scoring just over two minutes into the game, squeezing in between two of South London’s finest to give the Nighthawks a one point lead. Just over three minutes later Sam Morris received the ball on halfway and sprinted her way to the line to finish off an excellent team try that had begun at the opposite end of the field and which included a great break by Suzanne Caverly. Despite the experience in the South ranks and a promising break by Sam Carter-Allison, the two sides then played out a tense deadlock for the remainder of the game with North London keeping themselves in front through excellent game management and superior time in possession, making them fitting champions in the category’s first year.

The Men’s Open Grand Final saw the category’s last two winners face-off against each other – East London had won an exhilarating drop-off final in 2023 while West London triumphed in Leeds in 2022, the last time Nationals took place outside London. Despite chances at both ends the two sides played out a scoreless opening 10 minutes until Will Grey created an opening 20 metres from the line and slid through it, more akin to an eel than a wolf. West London chased back to keep him out of the box but the first lead of the game belonged to West. Five minutes later East London hammered away at the left corner of the tryline, allowing Josh Roberts to leap between outstretched hands for a diving score that tied things up. A game that had looked destined for extra-time ended up exactly as expected with the Eels having the first opportunity to score in drop-off. Despite a couple of tags given away as players slipped to their knees, East London played two very patient attacking sets that eventually enabled Kirby Rona-Roper to fling himself over the line and put his side in the ascendancy. The Wolves opened their set in a markedly faster, looser style that saw the ball spilt and end up in the hands of their victorious opponents to make it three East London wins since 2021.

North London became the only side to make Grand Finals in three separate categories this year as their Women’s Open team took to the field against West London Wolves who, like their Men’s Open team, had won the title in 2022 and were buoyant having knocked out the defending champions East London in a quarter-final drop-off. North London’s distinctive pre-match warm-up had won them fans from beyond their own region and the cheers only increased when captain Ellen McGuinness’ trademark style of distribution drew two defenders towards her just metres from the Wolves’ line, creating a gap that she coolly sent Rosie Hudson sprinting through for a bonus box score. The Nighthawks came within a metre of doubling their score just a minute later before West London strung together three consecutive sets, having taken advantage of two late tag penalties, to get them into the red zone. Cat Lindsay’s pace near the line kept the defence guessing allowing Amelia Millan to receive a perfectly weighted pass to score in the corner and close the gap to one after 10 minutes. Blistering breaks from Leah Alexander and Alice Burleigh in either direction were closed down by defences that largely dominated the closing stages of the game and North London were able to secure a historic double win across the two Women’s categories.

Yorkshire made their first appearance in the Mixed Open Grand Final since 2019, the year that started South London’s undefeated run in the competition. The highest scoring of the finals was set alight just two minutes into the game when Jake Powell dribbled the ball perfectly off his boot before tumbling into the box for a two point lead. Yorkshire then scored one of the tries of the tournament when Marcus Lampkin sliced through the Seals defence and showed incredible composure to fling the ball, off-balance, out to Leah Birkin on the left wing to level the scores. Arlen McCausland then goosestepped his way over Yorkshire’s line for South’s second score before Conor Williets ran more than half the field, wrongfooting multiple defenders to finish off a breakneck opening 10 minutes with the Seals leading by two. Hafa Karim and then Alex Ryan would twist their way through the defending champions’ defence on consecutive tags, resulting in a box try for Ryan that tied the game for the second time. With five minutes remaining Will Powell picked the ball up from dummy half and dived for the line from distance for a one point lead that South London would not relinquish. The White Roses had done themselves proud but the wait for a non-London winner of a Tag Nationals title goes on, in much the same way as South London’s Mixed Open dominance.

 

RE-WATCH THE LIVE STREAMS

Phase 1: Pitch 1, Pitch 2

Phase 2: Pitch 1, Pitch 2

PHOTOS

Team photos
Action shots
Finals
Presentations

TEAM WINNERS

Mixed Open
South London Seals

Women’s Open
North London Nighthawks

Men’s Open
East London Eels

Women’s 33s
North London Nighthawks

Men’s 38s
East London Eels

INDIVIDUAL WINNERS

Mixed Open Female Player of the Tournament
Evie Petratos (East London Eels)

Mixed Open Male Player of the Tournament
Will Powell (South London Seals)

Women’s Open Player of the Tournament
Leah Alexander (North London Nighthawks)

Men’s Open Player of the Tournament
Reiss Walker (West London Wolves)

Women’s 33s Player of the Tournament
Tessa Saunders (North London Nighthawks)

Men’s 38s Player of the Tournament
David Fitzduff (North London Nighthawks)

Referee of the Day
Lewis O’Brien

FINAL STANDINGS

Mixed Open
1st (Winners) South London Seals
2nd Yorkshire Roses
3rd South London Seal Pups
4th Thames Valley Titans
5th North London Nighthawks
6th Bristol Brabazons
7th West London Wolves
8th Coventry & Warwickshire Hurricanes
9th East London Eels
10th Manchester Worker Bees
11th Wigan Wizards
12th Sheffield Storm
13th Cork Chiefs
14th Brighton & Hove Dolphins

Women’s Open
1st (Winners) North London Nighthawks
2nd West London Wolves
3rd South London Seals
4th Yorkshire Roses
5th East London Eels
6th Cork Chiefs
7th Bristol Brabazons
8th Manchester Worker Bees
9th Edinburgh Highlanders
10th Thames Valley Titans
11th Sheffield Storm
12th Brighton & Hove Dolphins
13th Coventry & Warwickshire Hurricanes

Men’s Open
1st (Winners) East London Eels
2nd West London Wolves
3rd North London Nighthawks
4th Yorkshire Roses
5th Cork Chiefs
6th Bristol Brabazons
7th Edinburgh Highlanders
8th South London Seals
9th Coventry & Warwickshire Hurricanes
10th Thames Valley Titans
11th Manchester Worker Bees
12th Brighton & Hove Dolphins
13th Sheffield Storm
14th Wigan Wizards

Women’s 33s
1st (Winners) North London Nighthawks
2nd South London Seals
3rd Yorkshire Roses
4th East London Eels
5th Thames Valley Titans
6th Bristol Brabazons
7th West London Wolves
8th Coventry & Warwickshire Hurricanes
9th Manchester Worker Bees

Men’s 38s
1st (Winners) East London Eels
2nd North London Nighthawks
3rd Yorkshire Roses
4th Thames Valley Titans
5th Bristol Brabazons
6th Coventry & Warwickshire Hurricanes
7th South London Seals
8th Wigan Wizards
9th West London Wolves