12th September 2018, 09:25 | Community
The weather didn't dampen spirits at the Rugby Football League’s largest Variants Festival on Saturday 8th September 2018.
Showcasing the best of Rugby League variants, around 600 players participated across the 5 variants on display – Touch, Masters, LDRL, PDRL and Wheelchair.
The action kicked off with a Wheelchair Referee Course, ran by Steve Abel, which saw seven newly-accredited referees participate, all of whom went on to get involved in the Wheelchair Development Game.
The Wheelchair Development Game featured two new sides - Rochdale Hornets and Keighley Cougars. The game ended 12-8 to Rochdale and allowed new players and those with little experience to participate at an appropriate level, enjoy the day and improve their own skills and confidence.
Four Wheelchair National Performance Programme Players, James Simpson (Leeds Rhinos & Halifax); Josh Butler (Leeds Rhinos); Nathan Mulhall and Jack Brown (Halifax) were present, giving tips and chatting to all the players.
Niel Wood, Rochdale Coach, said: "it was a pleasure to be part of the very first Grand Day Out.
"Our players got to meet some of the National Performance Programme Squad, and has inspired them, giving them something to aim for."
10:30am saw the final stage Coast to Coast Touch Competition begin - it was a closely contested and long day for all the 130 players involved.
There were two finals for Touch, Plate and Cup, as well as the National Champion's title to be decided.
In the Plate, semi-finals saw Titans 2 face Featherstone Rovers and Catterick face Catterick 2. Featherstone beat the Titans 5-0, whilst Catterick defeated Catterick 2, 3-0.
The Final (Featherstone vs Catterick) ended 5-2 to Featherstone. As Featherstone were crowned Plate Winners, they picked up seven points towards the National Championship.
In the Championship, it was Ponte Rhubarb vs Titans, and Warrington Knights vs Manchester Knights 2. Ponte Rhubarb won their semi-final 3-0, and Knights won 2-1.
Ponte Rhubarb picked up the Championship trophy after a thrilling final, which after 10 minutes saw the game tied at 0-0. The game then went to drop off, in which teams must remove a player after 2 minutes, continuing until someone scores a try.
The Championship game went down from six to five and then to four before Ponte Rhubarb finally crossed the line for a winning try.
However, it was Warrington Knights whom were crowned National Champions 2018, after picking up 10 points for being in the final.
Beaten in sudden death in the Final of the Blackpool competition but this made it all so sweeter. Warrington Knights are National Touch RL champions. #GetInTheKnights #NationalChamps #Coast2Coast @TheRFL @MickHeptinstall pic.twitter.com/YFN1CCDCdb— Warrington Knights (@KnightsTouchRL) September 8, 2018
The Masters National Festival saw 19 teams attend, with around 250 players participating on the day. This is yet again another year-on-year record attendance for the National Festival.
Their games kicked off at 1pm, with games continuing through the rain at a high standard and in the usual Master's spirit.
After the games had concluded, the Team of the Day was presented to Elland, whom made their first appearance at the festival.
The PDRL competition kicked off at 10:30am, with the final being streamed live via Our League. Wakefield Trinity, Castleford Tigers, Leeds Rhinos and PDRL World Club Champions, Warrington Wolves all took the competition by storm.
Warrington Wolves faced Castleford Tigers in the PDRL Final, with the Club Champions winning via Golden Point to pick up their second piece of silverware in as many weeks.
LDRL kicked off at 1pm and featured five teams. Hull Kingston Rovers, Widnes Vikings, Wakefield Trinity, Warrington Wolves and St. Helens all participated in the days competition.
Warrington made it to their second final of the day, with their LDRL team set to face Hull Kingston Rovers.
After a tense competition, it was again a Golden Point win for Warrington - in their second win across the day.
Speaking on the Grand Day Out Festival, Wakefield Trinity's and the first female PDRL player, Emma Kirke, said: "It's a great concept, having everyone all joined together is a fantastic idea and a great platform for all variants, including PDRL and LDRL.
"Hopefully this Festival is something we can build upon, and have even more teams participating next year, particularly across the PDRL and LDRL competitions."
Director of Participation and Development, Marc Lovering, who attended the event along with representatives from Blackpool Council has confirmed the event will return in 2019, saying: "it was great to see so many players, volunteers and spectators enjoying the day.
"We will be looking at ways in which we can expand and improve the experience next year both in terms of the Festival itself, but also encouraging players and spectators to take advantage of all that Blackpool has to offer."