Banbridge based tag rugby team the Mengal Taggers have made it six titles in a row.
They have claimed the Summer League title for the sixth time in succession, tagging the Untagables in the league final at Belfast Harlequins.
Captained by Ulster and Ireland player Jemma Jackson, the Bronte Steakhouse sponsored Taggers ran out 21-8 victors but made hard work of it, trailing 8-7 at half-time.
“We beat the Untagables in the normal league season and then, come the final, it was quite convincing in the end,” said Taggers stalwart Brian O’Shaunessy. “They didn’t score at all in the second half and we got a couple of scores from the girls and that was six points straight away.”
While a try scored by a male will only pick up a single point in tag rugby, a female score notches up three points and so the girls have a key role to play.
“It’s all geared towards trying to include the girls. It’s the girls that really make a big difference but we still need the guys to be putting the girls in for the scores,” said Brian.
Little wonder then, that the Taggers are so successful. Few teams could hope to have a more esteemed group of girls than the Banbridge side. Captain Jemma Jackson, of course, is Ulster’s youngest ever player and has also been included in recent Ireland squads.
She’s not the only star in the Taggers line-up as she’s joined by Queens and Ulster team-mates Claire McLaughlin from the North Coast and Jemma McCutcheon (Enniskillen).
“We have the Ulster girls but we also have another local girl in Christine Henry from Rathfriland. She doesn’t play ladies rugby but she’s been with the Taggers since the beginning,” said Brian.
“I play for Banbridge thirds and fourths along with some of the guys and some of the other lads play for Dromore seconds or thirds. Some others play in Belfast but none of us play at a really great level.”
The Taggers are fast establishing themselves as the island’s leading tag rugby team and the sport as a whole is gaining momentum.
Brian said: “Everyone has got to know us because we’ve been about for so long. Teams are joining every year and the sport’s popularity is growing. It’s one of the fastest growing sports at the minute.
“It’s all about enjoyment. Some teams have tried to come in and take it really seriously but if you were up at one of the nights at Harlequins, you’d see it’s all good craic.
“We started it just for fun but then we realised that we were quite good at it. Even if we get beaten though, as we were in one of the league games this year, we congratulate the other team.
“It’s like rugby league in that you get five tags and when you’re tagged for a sixth time, the other teams gets possession. The ball is very rarely kicked as it can’t be over head height. The only time you’d kick it would if you’re on your sixth tag and you just want to get the ball up the pitch.”
The Taggers were also preparing to defend their All-Ireland crown but, as they were the only team to enter the All Ireland higher grade competition this year, they won’t be able to defend their title.
They were not allowed to enter a lower grade either so unfortunately there will be no All Ireland for the Taggers this year. There’s always 2015!