The first ever North Herts Rugby and Netball Festival proved to be a huge success!
Combining a sports tournament and a community food festival, Hitchin RFC was awash with happy faces glad to see a sense of normality return thanks to NH21. With lead sponsors Mason Navarro Pledge (MNP) in tow, the team who delivered the “Back2Schoolival” tournaments from 2015-2018 returned to the festival scene for their first post-pandemic event. A new concept based on local sports clubs brought over 450 players to the site on the day.
18 teams competed in the “CALA Homes” Cup and Social Cup in netball. 16 teams fought it out to take the “Cawsburger Cup” home in the men’s 10’s tournament. 9 teams went toe to toe in the “Succession Wealth” cup and plate competition in a showcase of ladies XRugby7’s. With the majority of teams hailing from Hertfordshire, accompanied by guests from Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, London, Reading and Buckinghamshire, the sports community were out in full force with large crowds gathering to cheer their team on. They were treated to some competitive action, played in good spirits across the board and some tight encounters, none more so than the Men’s final which saw Letchworth run out Cawsburger Cup winners after scoring an extra time, golden point try against Cantabs. The home team, Hitchin, made sure the Succession Wealth Cup stayed in Hitchin by winning their tournament, defeating close neighbours Welwyn in the final.
Tabard, who won Back2Schoolival in 2016, returned to the winners circle as they were victors in the Succession Wealth plate, defeating a brand new team, Bedford Blues Ladies, in the final. Continuing the theme of previous winners returning to take the glory, SAS retained the netball title they won in 2018 as they won the incredibly competitive CALA Homes Cup, while makeshift outfit Sag-A-Doo won the CALA Homes plate.
With the sports all tied up, attention turned to the Hitchin Street Food Monthly food festival with 6 local vendors pitching up and feeding the teams and an ever growing local crowd. Joined by a couple of bars, the likes of Cawsburger, Cantinas Carnitas, Apna Pubjab, Major Crusts, Fussey and Baer, Nonnas, the Hitchin RFC Bar and The Old School Bar company kept everyone refreshed with healthy queues forming until all traders had sold out.
To cap the day off, the incredible Wild Lies blasted 45 minutes of Fleetwood Mac covers out on the CALA Homes stage before delighting the 1500-strong-crowd with classics from Abba to Shania Twain as the party entered the evening. The local Hitchin community were a credit to the town as danced into the night.
With Festival Director Adam Howard struck down with Covid days before the event, the army of local volunteers ensured the day ran smoothly, ably supported by the accommodating sports teams and the legendary local community. Reflecting on the day, Adam Howard commented: “The day really could not have gone any better. The sport was competitive, the food was incredible and the community turned up in their hundreds. It’s been a testing 15 months planning the event with dates having to change, working through periods where it looked like a festival this size would not be possible given the ongoing health crises and last minute changes forced upon the team by isolations. But to pull it off despite all the adversity is a credit to the volunteer team and to all those who attended who bought into the nature of the day, celebrating sport and community in a respectful and well behaved manner. Based on all of the feedback, we will be back bigger and better in 2022!”
Stuart Pledge, Managing Director of lead sponsors MNP added: A well planned community event by Adam Howard and the NH21 team that saw sport take to the fields and netball courts after a long break during the pandemic. The atmosphere from players and spectators was heart-warming to see, friends reunited and teams doing their best in their sports. We are looking forward to next year's event as we know it will be bigger and better!