It’s coming home, Sparkes is coming home!

After a year’s hiatus, the Sparkes Cup returned to Fortress Harlington on the 23rd of June 2024, better than ever. For the first time, not only did the competition see the Constituent Colleges fight it out on rugby field, but also on the netball court!

The day saw round robin fixtures between the RCS, C&G & RSM, alternating between Rugby & Netball fixtures, with some of the rugby lads exchanging the egg-shaped ball for the round one and trying their hand at Netball to bolster the numbers. Ultimately the victories went to the Royal College of Science for the rugby, and to the City & Guilds for the netball. With the Sparkes Cup coming home to the RCS.

Another success in the day came from former City & Guilds player Elliot Quigley, who was performing the first trial of the ‘Impact Indicator’ developed by his start-up GumGauge (https://gumgauge.co.uk/), a low-cost indicator of collision impact, aiming to help players & parents in grass-roots sport feel more comfortable about their players’ safety.

We would wish to thank students Louis Beucher (rugby) & Bea de Goede (netball) for helping organise the event and ensuring a strong showing from the teams, and Andy Evans (Director of Rugby & Rugby Development Officer for Imperial College) for helping to make this year’s event a success and for his ongoing support and enthusiasm for developing the event further. Our very own Stephen Davies deserves our thanks for organising everything on behalf of the Associations who funded the event and for controlling the purse-strings on the day. And, of course, so do our match officials Laurence Cook, who brilliantly refereed the rugby matches, and Sandra Griffin and Khadija McBain who did likewise for the netball matches.

Finally, if you’re wondering exactly what you missed, please read on for a report on each of the rugby and netball games…..

Rugby

Glorious weather for a glorious day at Harlington, despite some tired faces from the Summer Ball the evening before. It was also great to see so many of the boys getting involved with the netball, playing in a mixed tournament alongside the sevens, a collaboration we can hopefully keep up in the future.

RCS-RSM: For the first game of the tournament, a locks and front-row heavy RSM team faced a mostly backs RCS team. Simple tactics from the science boys involved somehow stopping Sam Johnson and Luke Parry, and then outrunning the RSM players on the wing. It proved effective as RCS ran away with the game despite a valiant effort from the miners, who were simply outpaced.

RCS-CGC: Coming into this game, CGC were the reigning Sparkes cup champions, beating RCS two years ago. Well, the taste of revenge is sweet, as RCS brought home a large victory. The fact that most of IC Rugby Club’s backs are part of RCS was an undeniable advantage for the boys, who proudly secured the Sparkes Cup against, again, a slightly forward-heavy team.

RSM-CGC: On paper this one was evenly matched, with a Louis the RCS captain joining RSM to make up numbers alongside IC rugby coach Andy Evans. CGC recruited alumni Eliott Quigley to help them out, who was attending Sparkes Cup to introduce his company GumGauge, which endeavours to make rugby safer for all with their new impact indicators (look it up – its really good). The game was quite close until RSM put up a few consecutive tries to run away with it at the end, despite the shocking decision making of coach Andy Evans who got intercepted on a horrendous miss-pass for a CGC try.

RCS-rest of the world: In a last desperate effort to stop the RCS dominance, RSM and CGC joined forces for the last game. The first half was pretty evenly matched, but in the end, the RCS pace took it away yet again. Too much skill and flair from the RCS boys who triumphed more, emphatically bringing the Sparkes Cup home.

Netball

RSM-RCS: Kicking off the tournament, we had a tight battle from these two teams as there was consistently a one goal difference throughout the first half of the match. Many trainerless rugby boys were hyped to get their call up to their Union’s first ever mixed netball squad. The excitement of the match really took off when RCS introduced a new shooter to the game, a new star on the netball scene: Sami Brown. The rugby man paired with the former lacrosse girl now turned netball shooter unlocking true netball synergy. They pulled ahead to almost double the RSM score in the end proving to be the true MVP’s* of their team. In the defensive end RSM tried to get through the wall created by the strong GD (Goal Defence) and GK (Goal Keeper) but sadly struggled to do so.

RCS-CGC: This game was full of hearty competition, as teams started to gel and boys started to learn the rules, still struggling with the footwork nevertheless, a clear winner started to emerge in this second match. CGC was a true netball superpower, with a strong GK and GD team to turnover many RCS advances. While RCS put up a strong fight, CGC came out the victor with their powerhouse defence and fluid plays down the court.

RSM-CGC As the boys socks started to wear thin, rugby coach Andy took to the court to play for CGC. Could that be the reason for another CGC victory? Who knows. The game was neck to neck the entire match until enthusiastic rugby man Dylan came on court. Recovered from the tiring rugby, he was full of energy creating many opportunities for the attack to shoot and take advance in the match and end victorious. Overall, a brilliant first Sparkes Cup Netball win.

* MVP = Most Valuable Person

(This event wouldn’t be possible without the support of the RCSA, the RSMA and the CGCA. If you like our support for inter-collegiate competition, and the support we offer to our students why not help us do more? Sign up for RCSA membership here, and your annual subscription will be a great help, or consider making a donation to the RCSA Trust here. With no staff costs and no building costs you can be assured that every penny of your donation will be gratefully received and faithfully applied to assist the students of the Royal College of Science).