STOW-ON-THE-WOLD’s youngsters went toe-to-toe with the top teams in the county as the 2014 Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup drew to a close at Rendcomb College on Sunday, writes Paddy von Behr.

Each top-flight English club has hosted an age-group festival, in association with Land Rover, with the winners landing a spot in the ‘Parade of Champions’ during half-time of the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final.

Gloucester rugby welcomed 30 teams from across the county to Rendcomb on Sunday morning and, despite the blustery conditions, the youngsters put on a superb display.

With Cherry & Whites’ winger Shane Monahan watching from the sidelines – and handing out trophies to the champions – Stow U11s reached the semi finals and head coach Sean Clarke was proud of his team’s efforts.

“We did really well in our pool stage – difficult matches against good teams – and we dug deep but just didn’t have enough left in the final,” he said. “But is has been a great day.

“There was some good rugby all round – good teams playing in the right spirit and the right attitude.”

Stow U12s were also in action in Rendcomb alongside Cirencester and Minchinhampton – and the latter’s U11s coach Owain Atkins was pleased to pit his side against some new opposition.

“We get to play with teams we don’t normally play against – Clifton, Avonmouth, Lydney,” he said.

“It’s quite a high standard, especially at this point in the season when teams have had plenty of coaching and it is getting to the pinnacle of what you expect the boys to be able to do.”

Now in its sixth year, the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup is the first national grassroots tournament run in conjunction with all 12 top-flight clubs and showcases some of the country’s best 11 and 12-year-old players.

And Monahan, whose brother Simon is Gloucester rugby’s community rugby manager and organised Sunday’s tournament, also enjoyed the spectacle.

“It’s great to see how strong grassroots rugby is at this level,” he said. “There is a great future ahead if all these young lads stick with the game in these numbers – it is fantastic to see.

“You see so many kids playing and it is great quality as well. Sometimes you think ‘oh, it is kids’ rugby’ but when you sit down and watch there are some great skills on show.

“I have a bit more of an insight into grassroots rugby because my brother is involved in organising it and I have been to quite a few of these events.

“Simon is always trying to teach me as well as the kids! He is doing a great job and to see this come together is brilliant because there is a huge amount of work that goes on behind the scenes.”

Land Rover supports grassroots rugby and provides the opportunity for 7,000 youngsters to take part in the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup