A team from Scotland have won a prestigious international rugby competition in their first year!
The Dunfermline Knights are an LGBT-inclusive rugby team from Fife and they travelled to Dublin at the weekend as part of the Union Cup 2019 tournament. They came home winners of the Cu Chullainn Cup Bowl and won a separate accolade for being outstanding sportsmen during the competition too!
We hear from one of the squad, Will Watters (a trustee of Pink Saltire), who shares his personal views of a remarkable tournament for the Knights.
In his own words:
A mixture of nerves and excitement is what I felt as the plane took off from Edinburgh airport as the Dunfermline Knights flew off to their first Union Cup last week.
I joined the 8-week trial back in August not knowing what to expect, as last time I played any rugby was over 20 years ago and I was not a sports person at all then. Not only did I fall in love with rugby in a different way (compared to just watching the 6 nations) but I end up becoming part of the 1st all-inclusive rugby team to be part of a mainstream rugby club, and the team to be welcomed as the 80th team in the IGR.
Now I am jetting off to Dublin to take part in the Union Cup 2019 with guys I have only known for 11 months but feel like they are my brothers.
Dunfermline Rugby Club has been so welcoming to us all and proves that rugby is one of the most inclusive sports around the world. The existing members of the club included us all with open arms.
The team has grown so fast and come a long way from the day I joined, so I can’t wait to compete against other clubs but also to meet fellow inclusive teams so we can build new friendships.
The opening ceremony was amazing – seeing so many inclusive teams from around Europe taking turns singing their own chants and creating such a buzz. It felt an honour to be part of this event and to see how rugby can bring everyone together, no matter their sexuality.
We went to bed early knowing that we had to be up early for our first game against Leeds Hunters at 8:50am. The game was tough as they were fast but gave us a chance to see what to expect on our up and coming. They won 26-5.
We got time to rest before our next game with Wessex Wyverns so we got a chance to refocus and come back together as a team. We defeated them 26-7. With just one more game to play to decided which semi-final we would be playing in, we used this win to fuel us and to go and defeat the Northampton Outlaws 24-15.
Pitch 5 was our lucky pitch it seemed, as we won both games there!
With that game over, we were treated by the amazing Laura Smith (from Posture Fife) who came with us as our physio and kept us going through all the bumps and scrapes!
As we went out for our team meal I felt that with just that one day we grew stronger and came closer together as we chatted and waited to find out who we were playing against next and at what level.
The 2nd day I was nervous and felt like I just wanted to go back to bed but I knew I had my part to play in the team. We got to Pitch 5 and yes as I said before it was our favourite pitch.
As we stretched before the game we could see the other team warming up. The Munich Monks were a force to play against but we held our own and won 19-7 which ment we were in the final for our chance to win the Cù Chullainn Cup Bowl.
As we walked back to our space to rest and reflect on what we have achieved for a new team to come this far it just felt so unbelievable, but we still had the final to go.
It was decided that the same players that were in the Munich Monks game would be the ones starting us off against the Kings Cross Steelers IV, so I knew I had to give it all my best.
When the whistle blew for it all to start my heart started betting so fast I thought I was having a heart attack. 15 mins into the game I remember rushing into one of the ticks to help clear them out but one of the Steelers rushes in to tackle me which caused me to land on my head – I definitely felt that tackle! After a few mins I released it was maybe a bit more serious, so for the best of the team I came off and was checked over.
So there I am, sitting on the sidelines watching the game that I really wanted to be part of, but it was amazing to watch as each side scored against each other until try after try was won.
The time was nearly up and the guys waited to see what would happen. The whistle blew and Knights cheered as we had just won 38-24. We couldn’t quite believe it but we’d done it.
We did what we do best and shock hands with the Steelers and made our tunnel to show great sportsmanship. Photos were taken and after that was when it all sunk in that a gay man from Rosyth, with no sports background or interest when he was a kid, had now helped a team to win the Cù Chullainn Cup Bowl in the Union Cup.
The awards ceremony started after the finals and when they announced the Guinness Spirit of Union Cup (for great sportsmanship during the tournament) and it was Dunfermline Knights it was a huge surprise – it was so amazing for a new team to come in and be awarded this for just being us and being great sportspeople.
Then it came to the Cù Chullainn Cup Bowl and when Dunfermline Knights were called we walked on and took our medals with pride knowing that all the hard work from August until this day proved you can go and achieve amazing things as long as you focus, train and take those other guys down while still being yourself.
At the end of the tournament as I look back I’m incredibly proud of the team and what we all achieved, especially the Spirit of the Union Cup.
We made some amazing new friends from around Europe here in Dublin, but all of this would never have happened if it was not for Robert Forrester who believed a new inclusive team could be built in Fife – there would be no Knights without him and without the Club, so a huge thanks to Robert and the Dunfermline Rugby Football Club for taking a chance on us all!
Here is to the next season and bigger things for the Dunfermline Knights!