CRX Marlborough were crowned men's elite winners as the North Dorset 7s festival returned to Slaughtergate in 27°C sunshine.

Made up almost entirely of a clever, agile and physically imposing team of Fijian players, CRX knocked out reigning champions and four-time winners Shredded Ducks in the semi-final before beating Godfather 30-15 in the final.

For the first time ever, the tournament kicked off on the Friday evening to satisfy the early arrivals and camping festival goers, with a veteran over-35s ten-a-side tournament in which both North Dorset themselves and Bournemouth competed in a ‘round robin’ tournament with visiting invitational sides Godfathers and the Eggchasers, whose nationally renowned rugby podcast is the longest running in the country.

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North Dorset, with strength in depth at home, opened the tournament with a convincing win against Bournemouth’s ‘Bedouins’ and whilst many spectators would have expected the touring invitational sides to win convincingly, North Dorset gave Eggchasers a real scare, with the game tied at 17-17 before BT Sport TV presenter Tim Cocker himself dotted the ball down in the corner to seal victory for the Eggchasers.

As the sun finally eased behind the hills of the blackmore vale, a final was played under floodlights between the Godfathers and Eggchasers, with Godfathers outclassing the Eggchasers in a thrilling 40-21 win with a fluid and cohesive brand of rugby.

With Godfathers touring the rugby 7s circuit in order to raise money and awareness for charity Young Lives vs Cancer, most would say the right team won.

On Saturday morning, as the dust was still settling in the party tent from the evening before, ND7s kicked off at 10am with the remaining 52 teams competing in men’s elite, men’s social, women’s social and men’s ‘supersocial’ tournaments across six pitches of non-stop rugby action.

With the exception of ND Allstars playing in the men’s elite competition and North Dorset Women most of North Dorset’s playing members formed teams of their own, competing in the super-social competition, from the super-sized RouteOne 7s, to ND Badgers wearing the club colours with pride, to the garishly-dressed Drunken Flamingos.

One of the success stories of the day was the Ashton Press Junior Barrel winners in the supersocial competition. Dorset Police fielded a team made up of players who only recently had taken up rugby as a hobby, beating the Drunken Flamingos in the final by 22 points to 12.

The Super Social’s main trophy, the aptly named ‘Big Barrel’, sponsored by Robert Frith opticians, was won by Exeter’s more ambiguously named Put The Monkey In The Hole 7s in a convincing 38-0 win against Pigs 7s.

Teams finishing third and fourth during the group stages entered the men’s social plate knockouts, sponsored by Events Crew. This was eventually won by returning finalists Hurn Airport Windsocks from Bournemouth in a close 10-0 win against The Try Babies.

The Men’s Social Cup, sponsored by FJ Chalke, was won 31-19 by Fat Lads 7s in a highly competitive match against last year’s plate winners Snuff Pigs 7s.

The Women’s Social Cup, sponsored by VX3, was won by Hove in a thrilling 29-12 match against Sketty Hoops, whilst the Henley Hawks convincingly beat Swanage & Wareham 27-0 in the Women’s Social Plate final.

The men’s elite, hosting eight of the best 7s teams on the UK circuit, enjoyed open rugby played with deft skill and at an incredible pace especially given the exceptional warm weather conditions.

The FUEL10K Men’s Elite Plate was won by The 99s in the last score of the match in a very close 20-17 battle with other ND7s regulars Gunners, made up of members of the British Army.

The main event, the Gritchie Brew Men’s Elite Cup final, was hotly contested between Godfathers and CRX Marlborough.

This was a sensational match played with great intensity in both defence and attack from start to finish. Marlborough were the eventual 30-15 winners, owing perhaps to the speed and physicality of an entirely Fijian team better conditioned for the relentless hot weather.

North Dorset’s own invitational 7s team ND Allstars made it through to the semi-final of the main competition, losing only one group game to the eventual winners CRX Marlborough.

They won their quarter-final against Gunners by the skin of their teeth by only a single point before losing the semi-final 24-14 to Godfathers.

Even as the rugby pitches emptied and the bars began to fill, many more visitors arrived on site to enjoy an evening of brilliant live music, DJs and tasty local food.

Dates for ND7s 2023 are yet to be confirmed, although a record number of local visitors and families helped to raise £3,000 for charitable partner CRY in fond memory of former club captain Max Biles.