London Scottish introduced the Touch Rugby program in 2013 as a community activity with the support of RFU and sponsorship from O2.
Touch Rugby is one of the most popular, firmly established and fastest growing non-contact sports, practiced by adults and children in the UK.
It appeals to sport enthusiasts and those looking for an alternative way of keeping fit through the game whose combination of speed and fun promotes the fundamental skills of running, handling, evasion and support play, while developing basic principles of attack and defence.
After introducing Touch to the club in 2013, it is now firmly established as a permanent section of the Club, with the launching of a Season Membership scheme and ‘pay to play’ system, we are now incorporated fully within the larger Rugby Amateur segment of the Club.
We have marketed strongly the Red Lions Touch Rugby Club on social media and the web, especially from February 2015, when under the leadership of the Club Development Manager Corné du Rand a more structured organisation has been introduced, improving operations and administration.
With a structured organisation we are able to start implementing our vision: increase participation and impose the Red Lions as key player in the London Touch Rugby scene. To be able to achieve this, use of social media was essential; also fundamental was to have the team playing friendly and competitive matches against other clubs.
We tested the ground with a friendly game against Old Emanuel on April 23rd, at Old Deer Park. Old Emanuel is very well known to be one of the strongest Touch Rugby teams in South West London. After four years of hard work they are now very much a leading force, with excellent coaches and referees. It was a testing evening with a strong performance by our opponents, a match that highlighted our weakness and the need of further structured training.
Another outing for a selected team was an all day tournament organised by Teddington RFC at Feltham on June 12th. This large event was segmented with competitive and social games, involving 25 clubs, some as far as Bristol. A mixed performance from our team: we managed to defeat the strongest team of the day, however we lost against the less experienced. Again quality and potential was highlighted, negative feedback was taken on board to work on skills, team work and tactics.
Meanwhile Ross Peacock, our Community Development Manager and I worked for several weeks in May behind the scene to create a proper league, involving other Rugby Union clubs running a touch rugby program.
After weeks of email exchanges we were finally able to launch the Surrey and Middlesex Summer Touch Rugby League, independent and managed directly by our club, involving London Scottish Red Lions, Grasshoppers RFC, Teddington RFC and Wasps FC.
Although only four clubs are involved, the project has been ambitious, complex in terms of fixture management and requiring balanced ‘diplomacy’ and attention to detail to be successful.
The league kicked off with LS Red Lions hosting Wasps FC at Old Park in June 1st. Wasps delivered a narrow win with final result 8-9 to the visitors.
A big disappointment for us was losing at home again against Grasshoppers on June 15th: suffering a 6-9 defeat which left a bitter taste and the need for a serious analysis of the effectiveness of our training.
For several days, looking at the results and points table was a bit discomforting. With a convenient ten days with no league games we went back to our Monday evening training, re-organising our drills, testing and consolidating skills.
Hard work paid off. In our away match at Wasps FC on June 25th we got our first win, although a narrow one 6-5. Wasps FC made it very difficult for us, with a stubborn determination and a tricky referee it wasn’t an easy one. However getting our first positive result was elating and proof that our training started to make some difference.
We crushed Teddington on July 10th with a massive 8-1 for us, however on the following week hosting Teddington at home proved much harder than expected. We narrowly won 7-5. A drop in consistency and lack of communication, mixed with the opponent now understanding our tactics made a difficult night. Again a strong lesson for the team: never underestimate the adversary.
Having managed to climb the points table to a second position we still had the hardest game to end the season, away at Grasshoppers on July 20th. A well balanced and tested team went down to MacFarlane Lane in Middlesex to face the leaders.A nervous 40 minute match started with a hammering of tries from us, giving a comfortable lead. Better communication, closing ranks on defence and fast pace in attack proved too much for Grasshoppers, conceding defeat at the end with an astonishing 10-1 for the Red Lions.
An incredible journey for the team from a humiliating start to a stunning end, giving us a consolidated second place in the table with just a one-point deficit to the overall winner of the league, Grasshoppers RFC.The Summer League has given the opportunity for the Red Lions to come out of the comfort zone of friendly games within the boundaries of our club. We have met great individuals and clubs, learned hard lessons, we have forged a team capable of winning, however much work still needs to be done to create a stronger team bond and elevate our capabilities.
New exciting projects are on the table with London Scottish Red Lions at the forefront in terms or organisation. An Autumn League that will hopefully include six clubs spanning from the end of September until the middle of December, and new partnerships with individual clubs that can help to test our ongoing training.
A big chance for the Red Lions to be visible and showcase skills is when the Web Ellis Trophy will come down to the club on the evening of September 10th, also officials from Japan (RWC 2019 and 2020 Olympic will be visiting the club in September. For the occasion, although in planning stages at the moment, London Japanese RFC and Red Lions will be competing in a series of Touch Rugby matches.
More plans and ideas are developing for the next spring and summer, hopefully all accompanied by growth of our membership base.
We will always be a Club based in the community and working for the communities. We had a humble beginning and we will endeavour not to lose focus when success comes. Without the hard work of our players and members we couldn’t have consolidated the base to move our club forward and guarantee a future.