Category: Women & Girls

Durham County Schools beach festival sees a record number of girls playing rugby

Durham County Schools beach festival sees a record number of girls playing rugby


Durham County Schools Girls beach festival recorded its biggest attendance so far with 250 girls playing touch rugby.

Durham Beach Festival: record number of girls play school rugby

Over fifteen schools gathered at Seaburn beach on Friday afternoon to participate in the yearly Durham Schools beach festival organised by RFU Community Rugby Coach, Matthew Bradford.

Players from U13 and U15 age groups played in the touch rugby round robin games from schools; Castleview, Consett Academy, Dene Community, Durham Johnston, Harton Academy, Houghton Kepier, Kingsmeadow, Lord Lawson of Beamish, Monkwearmouth, Oxclose, Shotton Hall, Staindrop, St Johns, St Thomas Moore, Washington and Whickham.

Bradford commented: “It was fantastic to see so many girls along playing rugby for their school.

“Despite the sun hiding away it was a great afternoon with entertaining rugby on display.

“It was all about the schools and players having fun and enjoying an afternoon of rugby.”

As well as lots of young players enjoying playing, the beach festival also welcomed ten recently qualified level one referees from East Durham College and two from Durham Johnston through the Durham County Schools Union Young Match Officials Programme to help referee the games.

Bradford added: “The young match official programme with Durham County has allowed us to fund over thirty level one qualifications of recent.

“Having young officials at events like this are essential as they would not be able to go ahead otherwise.

“It is also a great environment for them to learn within and build their confidence.”

You can see photos of the event by Sally Evans, here


By Clarissa Murphy

Durham County Sevens Winners receive silverware and a ticket through to National Final

Durham County Sevens Winners receive silverware and a ticket through to National Final

Billingham Men and Sunderland Ladies represented Durham County in the Regional RFU Sevens competition at West Park Leeds RFC.

After topping their groups and winning their finals at the Durham County 7s tournament at Billingham, the hosts Men and Sunderland Ladies were invited down to the regional competition.


In the Ladies competition there were a number of drop outs leaving the Flames to play Preston Grasshoppers, Harrogate Ladies and West Park Leeds in a round robin event.

Across on the other pitch, the Billingham Men took to the field against Mighty Peth, Northern Assassins, Ilkley and International Gents.

Both the Billingham Men and the Sunderland Ladies came away winners on the day.
The ladies won the Regional Plate final 34-14 against Preston Grasshoppers, while Billingham Men won two out of three pool games to face International Gents in the cup Final. Despite a 29-17 defeat to International Gents, as Cup runners up, Billingham will travel to the England Rugby 24/7 National Final at Bath at the end of the month.

Billingham Men pick up runners up prize in Cup Final


Scorers across the day came from a number of players within the Flames including; Becky Robson, Clarissa Murphy, Jenny Cox, Karen Donkin, Kirsty Paterson, Olivia Davison and Steph Maddison, while all of the Billingham Men players picked up a try too.

Peter Evans, Billingham Men’s Coach, said: “Everyone scored on the day, but a special mention goes out the youngsters, 18 year old Alfie Lawson and 17 year old Joe Ross.

“They both stood up well on the senior stage and performed for the benefit of the team.”

In the Ladies competition, last year’s champions West Park Leeds went on to win the cup final against Harrogate.

Evans added; “It is a fantastic achievement for a young bunch.

“We played against regular 7s squads who are put together from far and wide, with much more experience in the shorter game than us.

In our cup final we were down to nine men, due to injuries and anyone who has played 7s will know it is a squad game and it was hard work out in the heat.

“Fortunately as we all play regularly together and have a tight squad we managed to get up to speed quickly and turn things around.

“The trip will give some of the lads who have not played on a bigger stage the experience and exposure which will benefit them in the long run.”

The National Final will be played via an online stream, with a total of eight men’s teams and eight women’s teams competing to be named the best amateur Sevens side in the Country.

Durham County RFU would like to wish the best of luck to Billingham in the final event.

View the pictures from the Durham County Sevens qualifier by Sally Evans, here. 

By Clarissa Murphy

New England Rugby XRUGBY7S format hailed an exciting success at Durham All Schools Festival

New England Rugby XRUGBY7S format hailed an exciting success at Durham All Schools Festival

Over one hundred boys and girls took part in the Rugby Football Union All Schools XRugby Seven’s Competition in front of England Rugby guests.

The girls and boys team were invited along to Billingham RUFC for an All Schools Festival with England Rugby guests, Steve Brown, Chief Executive Officer and Steve Grainger, Rugby Development Director watching from the side lines.

The day welcomed eight boys teams and four girls teams to the RFU artificial grass pitch to enjoy sunshine and an afternoon of trying a new format of the game, XRugby 7s.

Team Photo: South Durham All Schools at the XRugby7s festival


Organiser Phil Wallis, South Durham RFU Community Rugby Coach explained that the purpose of the day was to celebrate the end of three years as part of the All Schools Programme for the Hartlepool based schools and trial the new format of the game.

He added: “It shows the progress those schools have made and gives the teachers, players and parents an opportunity to celebrate their hard work with a festival and an end result.

“We also invited along schools that will enter their first and second year of the programme in September to show the potential it holds for the schools that are a part of it.”

Manor Academy, Dyke House, St Hild’s and High Tunstall were those among the seven teams celebrating the end of three years, with Ian Ramsey concluding their first year and St Michaels experiencing a taste of what is to come as they look ahead to their entry year in September.

On the day we caught up with Mr Howe, Ian Ramsey’s Rugby Teacher, on what he thought about the new format of the game.

He said: “The XRugby7s version of the game is exciting, it is quite a fluent game and there is obviously a lot of opportunities to move the ball. There is not a lot of set piece and it gets the ball in play a lot which the kids enjoy.

“We are seeing lots of open running and decent tries here today.

“The whole idea of the scoring zones gives the kids more excitement and they are all encouraging each other into the zones.”

You can check out the full interview on our Facebook page.

Across the afternoon parents, teachers, Steve Brown and Steve Grainger enjoyed watching lots of talent, off loads and tries throughout all the games.

Brown and Grainger commented on the female games saying that “they were very impressed with the standard of rugby being played”.

England Rugby guests: CEO Steve Brown, Rugby Development Director, Steve Grainger and Teesside and Yorkshire RDO, Alec Porter


Between the 34 girls and 77 boys, there were over one thousand points scored and 336 minutes played.

Wallis added: “Events like this show the players their success and achievements and it exposes them to a new format of the game that they might not have seen before.

“XRugby7s invites them to try something new, be creative and develop different skills from the traditional XV aside game.

“It was great to see so many boys and girls at the same event enjoying the day and being able to interact with others schools.”

By Clarissa Murphy

Durham County Women finish in second place in Championships after victory away to North Midlands Ladies

Durham County Women finish in second place in Championships after victory away to North Midlands Ladies


Durham County Ladies concluded their Gill Burns County Championship campaign in second place after a 21-15 victory away to North Midlands.

Durham Ladies recorded their highest ever league positioning after the well fought victory away at University of Birmingham.

Team Photo: Durham Ladies V North Midlands 2017/18


The visiting Ladies opened the scoring up with a try from Claudia Macdonald after a line break from Tara Breslin fell short of the try line, seeing Macdonald speed through for the offload and under the posts for a converted try by Breslin to lead 7-0.

Durham’s attack seemed to ruffle the hosts feathers as they responded in the 22 with a fierce attack, and camped in the visitors half for the next ten minutes of the game.

But Durham’s determined defence left little room for them to optimise on, with great tackles from Lauren Rigby, Emily Hunter and Mackenzie Thomas.

Tackle: Claudia Macdonald of Darlington Mowden Park shutting down attack


After a couple of close calls, Durham finally moved play to the middle of the pitch to relieve the pressure, however the hosts used quick ball to exploit the overlap out wide and score in the corner, despite great covering tackles from Ursula Hardy and Macdonald to cut the deficit to 7-5.

Returning to the half way line, play resumed as the ball fell into Alex Webster’s hands and the Durham pack secured the ball to begin phase play in attack.

The visitors attack worked the hosts on to the back foot with great leadership from Macdonald and well executed quick pod work within the forwards allowing them to gain momentum going forward.

But, the hosts were not shy at creating a challenge for the North East Players as they were very reactive at the break down to steal the ball.

Durham minimised the attack opportunities the side created with line speed and pressure in defence from Amber Stonehouse, Nicole Irving and Steph Maddison.

The leaders second try of the day came from Macdonald once more as her quick thinking put her through gaps in the defence to score under the posts, converted by Kirsty Paterson to lead 14-5.

Line Break: Mackenzie Thomas puts Durham on attack

After the half time break, play began to slow as the heat caught up with both sides and the ball swopped and changed between sides.

The majority of the game remained in the centre of the field with Durham looking promising at times with breaks from Paterson, Thomas and Hardy.

Once again it was the visitors optimising the disjointed defence as they played quick in attack with Clarissa Murphy setting Paterson away into the 22, before offloading to Ellie Pigford who was halted five metres out, leaving supporting player Murphy to come in and score next to the posts, converted by Paterson.

In the last play of the game Durham set for a scrum just inside their own half, attempting to run it up field Jess Cheesman took the ball to floor and an attempt at kicking for touch bounced back off a player to fall back into the hosts possession.

Despite a tough defensive structure from Durham, the hosts concluded the game with a final unconverted try to trail 21-15 on the whistle.

David Addison commented: “Durham have proved themselves and shown that they have numerous talented rugby players, that have easily made up the strongest county squad we have ever had.

“The hard work and dedication to this Championships has given us everything a group of coaches need from a player.

“For me the key thing in rugby is how you pull together when the odds are down and you are under pressure and our discipline, especially yesterday, has been outstanding.”

Off the field Durham County awarded a further six county caps to players yesterday, including; Amber Stonehouse, Claudia Macdonald, Kirsty Paterson, Nicole Irving, Rachelle Cooley and Sarah Hall, with Tammy Theaker being awarded the Percy Trophy for her attitude and commitment towards the team.

Pictured: Tammy Theaker receiving Percy Award


Durham County finished second in the Gill Burns County Championship Pool One table with nine points, behind current Champions, Lancashire Ladies.

By Clarissa Murphy

Preview: Durham Ladies announce squad in preparation for last fixture of pool stages away to North Midlands

Preview: Durham Ladies announce squad in preparation for last fixture of pool stages away to North Midlands


Durham County take on North Midlands away in the last fixture of the Gill Burns Championship pool stages, this Sunday.

The Durham Ladies will travel to Birmingham on Saturday afternoon in preparation for the game on Sunday.

Last week saw the ladies pick up a 29-7 victory away to East Midlands in the sunshine at Peterborough RUFC.

Chris Geehan, Durham County Backs Coach said: “I think last week’s performance really spurred us on as a team and the performance was exceptional.

“We need to take that same intensity and tenacity in to this week’s game.

“It shall be our intention to take each moment as it comes and embrace them and the result will follow.”

Durham had their last training session of the season, last night at Hartlepool Rugby Club where they worked on defensive structure with coaches Chris Jones and Dave Addison.

Steph Maddison, Durham County Ladies Captain, said: “We have been working on our defence and line speed, as it was not fantastic, but now looks really strong after training.

“The team are feeling really positive going into this weeks game after our win and performance last week.

“Personally, I am really looking forward to stepping onto the pitch with everyone for the final of the pool games.

“It has been a fantastic campaign, and we have really come together as a team.”

North Midlands are in a similar position to Durham, as both sides have defeated East Midlands and lost to current champions, Lancashire.

Captain Maddison added: “We are hoping to finish with a win and another rendition of Proud Mary!”

This game will determine the second place finisher in the Gill Burns Championship Pool one, with Lancashire set to finish top and progress from the group, providing they beat East Midlands this weekend.

Geehan added: “For us, we want the team to go out and enjoy their final game of the season and have some fun.”

Throughout the 2017/2018 campaign, Durham have welcomed debutants to the squad, as well as capping three players so far for five championship appearances, with more set to receive their caps this weekend.

It has been a progressive and talented year for the side, with players making appearances from each Women’s club in the County, including; Acklam, Bishop Auckland, Darlington, DMP, Hartlepool Rovers and Sunderland Flames.

Geehan added: “Selection has been tough this year and the standards the ladies have set themselves and the improvements they have made, have given us a headache in a good way.

“At the start of the season we aimed to better our achievements from last season, and I believe we have.

“We are a better team, although we still have areas to work.

“But in the short space of time we have had and disruptions we have faced, we have become a really strong unit.”

“So as far as for our goals, as Proud Mary said ‘we keep on rolling’.”

The players to make the final trip, are as follows: Emily Hunter (DMP), Alex Webster (DMP), Lauren Rigby (DMP), Jess Cheesman (VC – Darlington), Nicole Irving (Sunderland Flames), Ellie Pigford (Hartlepool Rovers), Olivia Davison (Sunderland Flames), Amber Stonehouse (Sunderland Flames), Claudia Macdonald (DMP), Steph Maddison (C- Sunderland Flames), Rachelle Colley (Bishop Auckland), Tara Breslin (Sunderland Flames), Kirsty Paterson (Sunderland Flames), Ursula Hardy (Darlington), Mackenzie Thomas (DMP), Chelsea Burger (Hartlepool Rovers), Julie Noble (Sunderland Flames), Rachael Knight (Sunderland Flames), Sarah Hall (Darlington), Clarissa Murphy (Sunderland Flames), Tammy Theaker (Darlington), Treen Hardy (Sunderland Flames).

Durham will take on North Midlands Ladies at the University of Birmingham on Sunday May, 13 kicking off at 2pm.

By Clarissa Murphy

Durham Ladies secure first victory of Championship campaign over East Midlands RFU

Durham Ladies secure first victory of Championship campaign over East Midlands RFU


Durham Ladies secure a 29-7 victory away to East Midlands RFU in the second round of the Gill Burns Championship fixtures.

2017/18: Team Photo against East Midlands at Peterborough RFC

Durham travelled to Peterborough Rugby Club on Saturday to take on East Midlands Ladies.

The game kicked off to an early scoring start for the visitors as a dummy off the back of a ruck by Claudia Macdonald set her away from the half line with pace behind her to cross under the posts, converted by Kirsty Paterson to lead 7-0.

Durham spent the majority of their visiting eighty minutes set up inside the East Midlands half.

Despite a number of penalties in the hosts favour, the Durham Ladies remained reactive and physical to limit the oppositions chances at attack.

Macdonald proved an asset to the side as she dominated the forwards from scrum half to control play and cross the line a twice more throughout the game.

Chris Jones, Durham Ladies Coach, said: “Today was a win for players as individuals and as a team.

“There is still plenty of room for improvement, and we are by no means a finished article but today we showed that we are capable of good things.”

Although the visitors missed out on a handful of scoring opportunities the victory was a comfortable and positive result.

Dave Addison, Durham Ladies Coach commented on the game from footage, saying: “We demonstrated a very physical game, showing how powerful we are as a team.

“Our tackling was very good and the hosts could not handle that.

“We scored five very good tries, moved the ball into space, set up good running lines off scrum half and fly half and executed our set piece.”

Other scores during the game came from forward of the match, Lauren Rigby, a try out wide from back of the match, Ursula Hardy and two more points from Paterson’s boot.

This week’s game saw another four debutants take to the field and receive their Durham County pin badge, including; Rachael Knight, MacKenzie Thomas, Danielle Coulton, Chelsea Burger and a further two County Caps handed out to Alex Webster and Clarissa Murphy for five Championship appearances.

Pictured: Clarissa Murphy (Sunderland) and Alex Webster (DMP) with Manager Paul Geehan. 

The Ladies go on to their final game of the pool stages with an away trip to North Midlands RFU on Sunday at the University of Birmingham, kicking off at 2pm.

Preview: Durham Ladies announce squad to take on East Midlands RFU at Peterborough RUFC

Preview: Durham Ladies announce squad to take on East Midlands RFU at Peterborough RUFC


Durham County Ladies set for the road as they prepare to take on East Midlands RFU in the Gill Burns Campaign.

Last week saw the Durham Ladies step out in front of a warming home crowd, against current champions, Lancashire.

The visitors showed their dominance in areas of the game that Durham were unable to match, running in 27-5 winners at Hartlepool RFC.

Durham return to the field on Saturday as they take on East Midlands at Peterborough RUFC.

Dave Addison, Durham Ladies Coach, said: “We are really pleased with our squad of players, we showed on Sunday that we can match anyone in the competition last week against, Lancashire.

“Last week we competed admirably, we lost out captain and both scrum halves to injury and it affected our shape.

“We struggled to turn our possession and chances into points.”

Durham are yet to face opponents, East Midlands in the County Championships. Last week this weekend’s hosts, lost out 17-3 to hosts North Midlands RFU.

Speaking about the game ahead, Addison added; “We are looking to get a win away, this weekend.

“The hosts lost out last weekend, so we know they will be looking for the same.

“Our aim for the season, was to finish higher than in previous season and hopefully North Midlands can do us a favour and beat Lancashire.

“All of our focus is on a tough away game and to play positive and entertaining rugby.”

Training has continued this week at Hartlepool RFC as Durham have looked to continue to turn their shapes and moves into an effective game plan as a team.

In the opening fixture, the Durham Ladies were victims to their own mistakes as they missed out on scoring opportunities in the 22.

Addison commented: “At this level, we need to take our chances and be clinical in attack and defence.

“If we get good field position and do not execute it, good teams will capitalise on this, as did Lancashire.

“We have had to learn this the painful way, but heading into Saturday’s game, we need to leave it as a lesson learnt.

“The squad are more than capable to play the rugby that will win games, we just need to believe.”

The ladies to make the trip are as follows; Emily Hunter (Darlington Mowden Park), Alex Webster (Darlington Mowden Park), Lauren Rigby (Darlington Mowden Park), Jess Cheesman (Darlington), Sarah Hall (Darlington), Ellie Pigford (Hartlepool Rovers), Olivia Davison (Sunderland Flames), Amber Stonehouse (Sunderland Flames), Claudia McDonald (Darlington Mowden Park), Clarissa Murphy (Sunderland Flames), Kirsty Paterson (Sunderland Flames), Tara Breslin (Sunderland Flames), McKenzie Thomas (Darlington Mowden Park), Ursula Hardy (Darlington), Treen Hardy (Sunderland Flames), Julie Noble (Sunderland Flames), Dannielle Coulton (Hartlepool Rovers), Michaela Theaker (Darlington), Rachael Knight (Sunderland Flames), Vicky Murphy (Sunderland Uni), Tammy Theaker (Darlington), Olivia Rowe (Darlington Mowden Park), and travelling reserves Becca Walker (Sunderland Flames) and Chelsea Burger (Hartlepool Rovers).

The game will kick off at Peterborough RUFC on Saturday May, 5 from 2pm.


Durham County Women lose out to Lancashire Champions in the opening fixture

Durham County Women lose out to Lancashire Champions in the opening fixture

County Women lose out to current Champions, Lancashire 27-5 in the first round of the Gill Burns Championship fixtures.

Durham Ladies welcomed 2016/2017 Champions, Lancashire to Hartlepool RFC on Sunday for their first clash of the campaign.

2017/2018: Team photo at Hartlepool RFC

Lancashire made the first mark on board with an early unconverted try after pod work saw them go round the corner for a forwards try.

The hosts demonstrated their desire to compete for the win as the forwards played quick ball before seeing Emily Hunter cross over the line to draw 5-5.

Despite strong and clinical attack from Lancashire, Durham persisted to shut down the Lancashire side with strong tackles from Rachelle Cooley, Tammy Theaker and Tara Breslin as the ball moved wide.

Pictured: Rachelle Colley and Tammay Theaker

Lancashire were well equipped in their experienced side, and used their speed to move into the Durham’s 22. Despite a structured Durham defence, the visitors power in the forwards proved the more dominant after several phases saw them under the posts to lead 12-5.

Before the half time break, the two sides battled it out in the middle of the field as possession frequently changed hands. Durham’s prop Lauren Rigby continued to turn over the Lancashire possession and secure the break downs to allow for pod work. But, it was once again the champions capitalising on their chances scoring two unconverted tries before the break while Durham winger, Ursula Hardy remained in the sin bin.

Line break: Lauren Rigby of DMP gains ground for Durham

Heading into the second half, Durham exerted pressure from the kick off to force the rested side into mistakes, setting the hosts up for a scrum in their half.

Durham set up camp in the visitors half and remained their for the first quarter of the second half. Despite losing the second scrum half of the match, Lucy Hewitt, Durham remained focussed as Olivia Rowe stepped up to the position exerting pressure off set piece.

Second replacement Scrum half; Olivia Rowe

The hosts attack caused some trouble to the visitors with powerful line breaks from Ellie Pigford, Hunter and Breslin, but the lack of support play at the break down allowed the clinical champions to quickly turn the ball over.

Despite losing two players to the sin bin in the second half, Lancashire held their shape and covered their missing player, slimming the opportunities in Durham’s attack.

The second half remained a battle of the best as both teams proved their resilience, throughout.

In the last play of the game, it was the visitors on the scoring end as they fought their way around the corner with phase play to end the game 27-5.

Christopher Jones, Durham County Women’s Coach said: “Durham provided the current county champions with a game of rugby that had everything.

“We showed physicality up front and pace out wide and strong in defence, which forced them to work hard for the points they scored.

“The ladies should be proud of their efforts, training has clearly been paying off and it is exciting for the rest of the competition to see how they progress.

“We were not clinical enough in the final third and our decision making when close to the try line cost us, that and some impressive, well drilled defence from Lancashire.

“If we can improve on this aspect of our game in training this week I am confident the next game we will be even more competitive.”

Off the field, the day was another historical one for Women’s Rugby in the County as a further nine players collected their County pin badges for their first Women’s XV appearance including players; Tammy Theaker, Lauren Rigby, Olivia Rowe, Julie Noble, Ellie Pigford, Treen Hardy, Michaela Theaker, Olivia Davison and Lucy Hewitt.

As well as County pin badges, there was also a County Cap handed out to Emily Hunter for representing Durham County in five Championship fixtures.

County Cap: Player coach, Emily Hunter receive County cap from President John Denham


Durham’s next fixture sees them travel away to Peterborough RFC to take on East Midlands RFU on Sunday May, 6.

By Clarissa Murphy