Last weekend Portsmouth Grammar School, Millfield, and Brighton College all came together for a new and innovative Triangular Festival.
1st XVs, 2nd XVs, U16 As, and U16 Bs came together, and the idea was to create a competition that would help keep the ball alive an in play, therefore increasing the learning and development of individual and collective skills, both in attack and defence.
To achieve this, there were several rule adaptations, the most obvious of which was that there were no scores kept, and therefore no results. More subtle differences were that all penalties had to be tap penalties, while there were no conversions, penalties at goal, or drop goals, and catch and drives from the lineout were banned.
The outcome was that the ball was in play for longer which increased the numbers of catches, passes, tackles, and other ball in play skills. In theory this enhances the learning taking place individually and as a team. This also meant that the fitness of all the players was pushed more than usual resulting in players having to make decisions under fatigue which England and Eddie Jones have introduced to their training sessions. No scores/results were put in place to increase confidence to be creative and reduce fear of failure.
Without doubt it was a success, with some thrilling tries being scored, as the highlights package by CheersMate Productions at the foot of this article shows.
All three coaches sang the praises of the festival, with Brighton College Director of Rugby Nick Buoy saying:
“Overall it was a huge success. All three teams adapted quickly and enjoyed the experience. I would recommend all teams at all levels to try and do this at least once a year to enhance their groups development.”
Portsmouth Grammar’s Director of Rugby, David Lyons, echoed that sentiment:
“It was a really enjoyable day. The rules imposed on the games challenged the players in new ways, putting them under pressure and forcing them to adapt. It is definitely something that we will continue with in all age groups in the future.”
Millfield have a reputation for having a go from anywhere, and their Director of Rugby, John Mallett, spoke of how the rules helped to increase the speed of the game:
“The rule adaptations had a positive impact on the speed of the game and produced a much higher number of passes, tackles and decisions. The ‘no result’ did not make the games any less competitive it simply took the emphasis away from an outcome.”
Overall it appears to have been an incredibly positive experience for all involved, and is the sort of model that we can surely expect to see implemented again next season as certain schools really start to focus on producing players with a high skillset, both with the ball and without, but perhaps most importantly in their decision making under duress.