The Berkhamsted School Sevens takes place this year on Sunday 12th March and once again some of the strongest U13 sides in the country will take part.
In 1989 Mr George Pitman, the former Headmaster of Berkhamsted Junior School, suggested that the School should celebrate its Centenary by hosting a Junior Sevens Rugby Tournament and seven teams were cordially invited to participate. They were Beechwood Park B, Bedford Modern, Haberdasher’s Aske’s, St George’s Harpenden, Verulam, Oakham and St John’s Northwood. Bedford Modern were the first winners of the Berkhamsted sevens. In 1992, the Plate trophy was introduced and was won by Watford Grammar. Berkhamsted School won the Tournament Trophy in 1993 and then RGS, High Wycombe (under the guidance of Mr Mike Davies) dominated for the next three years. His teams were blessed with skill, pace and power. In 1997, London Oratory stopped the Wycombe domination and then the following years saw the emergence of Whitgift under the leadership of Mr Simon Beck.
In 2001, a most generous gift from Simon Dyson enabled the Tournament to expand to 32 teams and in 2002 the Tournament moved to 40 teams. At this stage the family of Tom Warren (Captain of the 1st XV) kindly donated the Bowl Trophy so the teams had more to play for. In 2003, we welcomed the first team from Wales, Dwr-y-Felin from Neath with their coaches, Mr Stuart Vaudin and Dai Williams. 2004 saw the tournament increase to 48 teams and this was the year that saw Monsieur Marc Cambon of St Joseph du Loquidy travel over the channel with his team from Nantes.
Furthermore, in 2004, the U18 Girls Competition was started and the winners were Rickmansworth. This tournament soon began to grow.
A huge decision had to be made in 2005 and thankfully it was the correct one, as the pitches were unplayable as a result of frozen ground. However, a great deal of frustration was felt for St Joseph du Loquidy, as they had a side that was certainly capable of winning the main trophy. The Judd School under the guidance of Mr Marcus Fec produced some fine teams and their team of 2007 was a most formidable side. In 2007, the Girls Tournament was divided into Section A and B. Colston’s U18s won Section A and St Joseph’s Ipswich were victorious in the B section.
The first team from the North of England to lift the U13 Tournament Trophy was Manchester Grammar School in 2008. In 2010, the decision was made to increase the Tournament to 64 teams at U13 level with the creation of two new pitches and therefore, another Trophy could be awarded and the Old Berkhamstedians kindly donated the Shield Trophy. Glantaf won this Trophy and were the first side from Wales to win a final at the Berkhamsted Sevens.
So here we are in 2017. Once again we have some of the best teams at U13 level competing. Since 1989, including those competing today, approximately 10,100 boys would have taken part and in the last 10 years around 2,000 girls. 116 schools have competed in the U13 competition and 36 schools in the U18 Girls Tournament.
Over the years it has been marvellous to know that boys who have run out on the fields of Berkhamsted in this Tournament have gone on to play at Premiership level and on the International stage.