Youth Rugby Union, by Kieran Graves –
Harlequins players Chris Brooker and George Merrick visited Horsham Rugby Club to inspire youngsters and show off the Aviva Premiership Cup.
Horsham is a partner club with Harlequins, providing talent that goes on to Quins’ academy and beyond.
U16 players Sean Richardson, Aiden Plumpton and Declan Nwachukwu are among those in Quins’ academy, while U13 prospects Joe Blake, Vince Everitt, Lewis Kirby and Aaron Linfield enjoyed their first training session with Quins this month.
The local club was also a springboard for England’s Joe Launchbury (Wasps) and Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester), who played for the Green and Whites’ minis and junior teams. Twelvetrees will make his senior international debut against Scotland on Saturday.
Brooker, Merrick and Gerald Kelly, community marketing executive at Harlequins, met Horsham players from the minis up to the U16 squad, posed for photographs and answered questions from players and parents alike.
Brooker, who appeared for England Saxons in 2012, started playing rugby at the age of four and said youngsters were the future of the sport.
He told The District Post: “It’s important to have role models to look up to. I hope to be able to inspire young players to follow their dreams and achieve their goals.”
An U15 player said: “It’s nice to be able to meet some professionals and get advice to help us progress.”
Players and parents enjoyed lifting the Aviva Premiership Cup, even though the trophy was about the same size as some of the players from the minis. Kelly said: “It’ll be fine. I’m sure there’s been worse done with it!”
Event spokesman Martin Day, from Horsham Rugby Club, said: “It’s been a success. We’ve been able to build on relations with Quins, and our players have met some great professionals and role models.”
Horsham U16 leapfrogged Chichester U16 in the league by beating them 27-13.
Heavy overnight rain made adventurous rugby a challenge, but Horsham may have been inspired by the illustrious visitors from Harlequins and both sides put on a treat for the crowd.
Horsham led 5-3 at half time thanks to a try by powerful number 8 Sean Richardson and the home side stepped up a gear after the break, playing some outstanding attacking rugby.
Declan Nwachukwu scored three tries and fellow winger Liam McGivern got the other as Horsham led 27-3 before conceding two late tries. Josh Steggles, Dan Riley and Matt Streeter were among others who impressed.
Out-of-sorts Horsham U15 were edged out 15-12 by East Grinstead U15, despite first-half tries by Alex Clery and Justin Dzomekuh.
The East Grinstead defence held firm in the final minutes, even though Rowan Murphy-Hunt made a good break and Horsham’s forwards exerted concerted pressure.
Horsham U13 conceded the first two tries but recovered to win 33-10 at Pulborough U13.
Captain Joe Blake (two), Joe Humphreys (two) and Lewis Kirby scored the tries and Blake added four conversions on a very windy day.
Assistant coach James Penny said of man of the match Peter Barry: “If you steal ball against the head and do so much tidying up at the breakdown, you give your team a very good chance of winning.”
Pick up your free copy of The District Post on Friday for more photos of the Harlequins players’ visit and the weekend’s youth rugby matches.