City's Jungle Crows clinch rugby title

Jungle Crows thumped defending champions Future Hope 29-5 in the all-Bengal derby in the boys' final yesterday to win the All India Under-17 Rugby Sevens Championship 2017 in Bhubaneswar, Odisha.

By Rwitoban Deb
  • Published 1.08.17
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Jungle Crows with the All India Under-17 Rugby Sevens Championship 2017 trophy after a 29-5 win over Future Hope in Bhubaneswar on Sunday

July 31: Jungle Crows thumped defending champions Future Hope 29-5 in the all-Bengal derby in the boys' final yesterday to win the All India Under-17 Rugby Sevens Championship 2017 in Bhubaneswar, Odisha.

In the girls' final, Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences edged out Saraswatipur Leopards, a Jungle Crows project based out of Saraswatipur village, by 12-7.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee was one of the first to congratulate the teenagers. "Congratulations. 7 a-side under17 #Rugby Championships. 12 States 51 teams. Swaraswatipur, Siliguri boys champions & 2nd in girls #Bengal," she tweeted yesterday.

Bengal has been leading the rugby charge in India for some time now and Paul Walsh, a former British diplomat who set up Jungle Crows with friends in 2004, hopes this could pave the way for more support from the state government.

"It's fantastic to see the chief minister commend the effort and performance of the youngsters. It's incredibly motivating to get such recognition," Paul said this afternoon on his way back from Bhubaneswar.

Rugby India's annual tournament kicked off on Friday with 30 boys and 21 girls teams.

The state teams had won the boys and girls categories in the India Junior National Sevens tournament in Chennai in June. And Saraswatipur, a tea estate in the Jalpaiguri district, has been one of the major supply lines.

Four girls from the village will fly to Hong Kong for the Under-20 Asian Rugby Sevens later this week.

Five had recently represented India Under-18 at the Paris World Games.

Suman Oraon, Rima Oraon, Sandhya Rai, Punam Oraon and Lachmi Oraon - the Paris pack - touched down at the t2 office on July 11 after returning from Paris.

"Everyone is bigger and stronger, they eat so much and they all look older than us. Four of us struggled to take one of them down," Lachmi said.

But what they lack, they made up with conviction. "We want to win a gold medal for India," the five Saraswatipur sheroes said in unison.

Rugby kicked off in Saraswatipur in 2013 after a priest in Siliguri got in touch with Paul hoping Jungle Crows Khelo Rugby programme would have a positive impact on children.

The popularity has since soared, with close to 1,000 children playing in the Khelo Rugby programme in Calcutta and Saraswatipur.

"Bengal is a Mecca for Indian Rugby. It's the best rugby producing state in the country," Harinder Singh, Jungle Crows manager, said.

Future Hope, which lost in the finals, is another heavyweight from the city, with 300 kids training on the Maidan.

"Tim Grandage (founder of Future Hope) made rugby accessible to everyone. Most of our kids come from a difficult background and rugby gives them happiness and confidence. It teaches them teamwork," Sujata Sen, CEO, Future Hope, said today.

Sen lauded the team's performance and congratulated Jungle Crows for being the better side yesterday.

The Frank Anthony Public School, Armenian College and Young Rugby Club were the other state representatives.

Jungle Crows and Future Hope battle it out in the final; Sandhya Rai of Saraswatipur Leopards in action in the girls’ final against Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences. Picture courtesy: Paul Walsh