Ninjas at Serge Betsen's Academy Tournament

11th July 2010
by Niall Turner
The listing was posted by Windsor RFC - Seniors - Ninjas

The Ninja Squad with Thomas Castaignede

Back left to right: Clive Lewis, Joel Turner, Sam Turner, Niall Turner, James Carn, Sean Wilkes, Jeff Whitehill, Will Grant, Peter Eccles.
Front left to right: Fabien Colette, Damien Daupeyroux, Thomas Castaignede, Mark Hilleard

Fixture: Serge Betsen Academy Tournament 

Venue:  Battersea Park
Date:  11th July 2010

A squad of 12 Windsor Ninjas travelled to Battersea Park this Sunday to take part in the Serge Betsen’s Academy Touch Rugby Tournament. The iconic French International’s Academy is devoted to assisting children in his homeland of Cameroon and the tournament attracted several French Internationals, including Thomas Castaignede and Olivier Azam, London Wasp’s players and other rugby notables and worthies.  On a beautiful summer’s day, the scene was set for some exciting, fun, touch rugby and the Windsor Ninja’s surpassed all expectations by remaining unbeaten, coming third overall and holding a highly motivated Wasp’s Academy team to a 2 all draw.

The Ninja’s first fixture was against British Lion Phil Vickery’s Raging Bull Beer Rats, Gloucester chapter.  The Rats looked eminently qualified on the Raging Bull part of their name, but, with not one beer gut between them, showed no physical evidence of excess in the second part.  This was a fantastic curtain raiser for the enthusiastic and ever increasing crowd.  Clear underdogs, the Ninjas went into an early lead with a sharp breakaway try from new signing Will Grant.  The Rats came back strongly and broke through the Ninja’s defence twice before Will could add a second to level the game up.  With time running down, the Rats went back into the lead, but a moment of inspired and completely uncharacteristic skill from veteran Ninja Mark “Tractor” Hilleard saw the Ninjas grab a draw at the death.

Bolstered by this relative success the Ninja’s next game was against local Touch Rugby specialists No Morals, who ply their trade on Clapham Common.  The Ninja’s played faultless rugby, conceded nothing and ran in three tries, one each from Sam, Niall and Joel Turner to win the game 3 to nil.

Next up for the Ninjas were unknowns Frogs Legs.  Ninja concerns about the quality of the opposition were raised when the Legs appeared in sky blue and pink shirts, it is well known that any team that sports “loud” shirts has to be good.  But as Ninja Master Francis Turner often reminds us all "For the true Ninja it is not the colour of the scabbard, but the sharpness of the blade that slays the foe".  Their players, in the main, looked fit, lean and hungry for action.  They also had Australian international Steve Kefu as their go to player, although, as it transpired, it was the Ninjas who went to him most often.  Up to this point, this match was the Ninja’s finest hour (well 20 minutes, if you want to be accurate).  Organised in defence and inspired whilst in possession, the Ninja’s never let the Legs open up with the kind of firepower that they clearly had.  The Legs didn’t play with the same team understanding as the Ninjas and this left potential gaps in their defensive line.  Gaps that the more experienced player could exploit.  Fortunately the Ninjas have a few of these and 2 scintillatingly, deceptive runs from Ninja Original Peter Eccles netted 2 tries, one of which left a flat footed Kefu grabbing at air after the "Trott inspired" Eccles dummy and the Legs defense wide open, looking at each other in disbelief as the Windsor veteran grounded his well earned scores.  Will Grant added a third when he too skinned Steve Kefu with a fast and precise sidestep and a real crowd pleaser finished the Legs off as Clive Lewis’s opposite number went for the glory intercept.  Veteran of many campaigns, Clive was having none of it, saw the opportunity and dummied his way to the line for Windsor’s fourth.  The Legs had no answer.  Windsor’s defence was organized and resolute and not even the dancing feet of Steve Kefu got through.  Quote of the day went to the Wallaby, during the post match handshakes when he couldn’t help admitting “Jeez, you guys are good”.

Windsor’s last pool game was against The Wasps Academy.  This was not a team pretending to be London Wasp wannabees, or even a tribute team.  It was made up of Premiership legends, London Wasps academy players, who, by all accounts, are quite useful.  The Ninjas had given a good account of themselves so far and looked forward to this game with relish.  With no expectation of anything other than a lesson in how to play rugby they played with their usual organization and communication in defence and optimism in attack.  It paid dividends, maybe the Wasps underestimated their opposition, but quickly learnt not to when Sam Turner surged through the smallest of gaps to score a try that had the now capacity crowd cheering.  The Academy were not best pleased and set about their task with a renewed focus.  A focus that brought on an incredible display of fast, intuitive rugby that verged on the telepathic.  The Academy scored one try that even the Ninjas defensive coach admitted was unstoppable and one that quickly exploited an overlap on the right wing.  But the Ninjas weren’t done, on the final play of the game, with the Academy defence pulled slightly out of position following 5 phases of attacking rugby, Sam Turner darted through to score a momentous try.  The Windsor Ninjas had secured a 2 all draw against the Wasps Academy. 

Worth repeating I think - The Windsor Ninjas had secured a 2 all draw against the Wasps Academy

This was as far as it went for the Ninjas.  Two wins and 2 draws netted them third spot out of a very strong field of 10 teams.  But as an unexpected bonus, Serge Betsen announced that he would put together a Rugby Legends side of Internationals and Wasps players to play against a team he would select from the opposition that had caught his eye over the day.  Ninja skipper Damien Daupeyroux was joined in this team by Ninjas Will Grant and Ninja brothers Sam and Joel Turner.  Although the Legends won, both Sam Turner and Will Grant scored for the opposition (the only players who did) and Damien had a try disallowed for some minor technicality.

This was a fantastic day out for the Ninjas - our thanks go to Damien for organising our inclusion in this event and also to Serge Betsen and his team for putting on such a well spirited tournament.  If you are interested in his academy - please use the link below.