As part of the year-long programme of events celebrating 150 years of Preston Grasshoppers RFC an international tournament, sponsored by L&M Healthcare, was held over the weekend at Lightfoot Green.
Teams arrived from Formia in Italy, Dendermonde in Belgium, Almelo in Holland and a large contingent supporting the women’s rugby team, the Sabres from St Louis, USA.
Along with local sides from Blackburn, Thornton Cleveleys and Broughton they took part with Hoppers’ teams in a festival of competitive rugby watched by a good crowd on both days, despite the varied weather.
Saturday saw the teams from Europe play against Blackburn 2nds and Hoppers’ 2nds.
Each played the other in a round robin but it quickly became clear that Dendermonde, the Belgian League champions, were the dominant force as they swept their opposition aside to win the day’s trophy.
The programme concluded with a game between Hoppers women and the Sabres refereed by England World Cup-winning player La Toya Mason. The Sabres proved themselves a tough unit and defeated the Hoppers’ 36-10.
Sunday was a similar programme but some late changes necessitated a reduced format as Formia and Almelo had suffered several injuries and, as their home seasons were starting on Saturday, they did not want to risk any more losses.
The day went ahead with teams from Dendermonde, Broughton and two sides from Hoppers – a third XV and the Hoppers’ Barbarians which, in the spirit of international rugby, fielded some of the Italian team and a couple of American lads alongside the Preston players.
Again the Belgians were too strong and took the day’s trophy without conceding a point.
The weekend closed with another women’s match, won by St Louis Sabres against the Grasshoppers’ Sally Watson Memorial Team.
Sally, a long-standing member of the Hoppers women’s rugby section lost her battle with cancer just a few years ago.