Cole accompanied the Biggleswade Under 14’s party to Butlins for the event over the bank holiday weekend and when enquiries were made about a young player keen to play some rugby and willing to join in with an under 11 team, Eric (the Tigers Community rep ) approached the nearest group to him. Without pausing, the Banbury Head Coach invited him to join his 31 man squad, who were all warming up nearby. The comment ‘he is part of the rugby family and if he’d like to play, we’re only too happy to let him play with us’ was a pretty impressive statement.
The warmth and friendship offered was immediate, the Banbury youngsters recalled a game against Biggleswade in the Land Rover Cup at Northampton Saints a couple of years back (Cole remembered the rather one sided encounter, and Banbury A are still unbeaten two years later).
Below is an extract from the write-up on the Banbury website:
''The 32 man squad split into two equal ability teams (Starsky & Hutch) and were drawn in separate groups on the Saturday. Hutch won their three group games against Stamford, Old Albanians and Camberley respectively while Starsky won came from behind to win their opener against Hinckley, drew against Ayleford and then withstood a strong comeback from Welsh side, Penalta to clinch a vital second win.
This saw both teams finish top of their groups but unfortunately the draw was such that Banbury 1 and Banbury 2 now became semi-final opponents. This resulted in a fiercely contested match which #1 edged 10-5 with the winning try coming from guest player Biggleswade’s Cole Martin who had settled into the squad as if born in a Banbury shirt. Banbury 1 duly progressed into the Cup Final while Banbury 2 was left to play out the third-fourth place play off against Ayleford from Kent. There had to be a slight re-jigging of personnel for the two teams as a number of injuries were picked up in the semi.''
Banbury overcame Penalta in the final, to win 25-0. This was against a team who had picked up a number of injuries during the weekend, but respect is due to them for having come through two days of tough rugby to reach a final played under English rules. On the adjacent pitch, the other Banbury boys nearly made it two wins on the day but ultimately Ayleford’s strength in depth proved too much and they ran out worthy 10-5 winners. First and fourth place in a twelve team competition was a very good result, particularly on so little sleep.
A very impressive and slick presentation ceremony back on the Butlins site concluded the weekends rugby. The Leicester Tigers community guys had organised for George Chuter to present the prizes. Many of Cole’s team-mates at Biggy would have been impressed as the Head Coach’s son kept flashing his Northampton shirt at the enormous crowd. One of the other lads then led the boys in a rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In!!!” whilst they were up on the stage (sorry ‘Sarries’ Dan and ‘Tigers’ Sam). The Banbury report writer was spot on when he described what a superb competition it was, with good pitches, quality refs and decent venues.
The whole of the Banbury group of players, coaches and parents made Cole feel welcome. He played in every game and was even invited to their tour-ending Kangaroo Court. It was here that he was singled out for scoring for Banbury against Banbury in the semi-final………..and after having trudged up the stairs to see what punishment awaited him (the adults drinks were pretty gruesome e.g. half pints with baked beans and pickled onions were one heck of a fine), he found himself being presented with a Banbury RFC shirt signed by all of his teammates!!!
All in all a cracking weekend, with some very impressive rugby witnessed across the age groups. Huge thanks goes to Bev Keefe for organising the U14’s entry at the event. A top tour was had by all, with lots of lemonade consumed. Cole was absolutely delighted to make so many new friends and also get the opportunity to enjoy the extensive activities on the Butlins site with them.
One final comment – the Banbury Under 11’s will be taken onto the pitch at Twickenham on the 26th May (Aviva Premiership Final), as a reward for their impressive collection of titles this season. They are the holders of the London Irish Land Rover Cup and also share the Saints version too after a draw with Long Buckby in the final. If any of you are there (and Cole will be, along with a number of other Under 14 parents and boys), please cheer on a fantastic team of players, coaches and parents – one Biggy player experienced a weekend that he will never forget!