Sky High Sports tackles Belfast for the WRWC

As the crowds disappeared into the murky Belfast night, there was no doubting that it had been an 'I was there' sort of an evening.

 

 

The Women's World Cup came to a ferocious conclusion, with the imperious Black Ferns squeezing the life out of an impressive England team. 

This was just an aside though. 

The stands were full of wide eyed supporters from across the Rugby Globe. From Austria to Finland & Germany to Canada, it was a real mix & a stark reminder of the strength of the Women's game. 

In amongst them were seven touring teams travelling with us for the final. It was great to see them enjoying their trips so much. It's an awesome buzz when the hard work and logistics play out beyond the expected. 

It was also great to meet teams who were travelling independently and with other operators. Whilst there is no doubt that with every trip the process improves one way or another, it was a great reminder that the way we operate works. 

Ahead of the final, our teams played in tournaments, round robins and straight fixtures at some of Ireland's great clubs. Malone RFC hosted a superb festival on Friday with 16 senior teams and a handful of U18 & U15 teams. Claimed to be the biggest women's event ever staged in Ireland, it is certainly one I hope they make a regular event. 

A team up the road, who may argue that claim due to their massive annual sevens event is Carrickfergus RFC. They hosted our Canadian tourists for a real special day on Wednesday. 

It kicked off with High Tea at the Lord Mayor's chamber before some behind the scenes pomp and circumstance. A private tour of the imposing Castle & some down-time was followed up with a four-team round robin at the impressive Carrickfergus RFC. 

Our Canadian guests from Brantford 'Quins pipped Irish and American opposition to finish in first place - an impressive feat given their enthusiastic pre-match build up at Dobbins Inn.

The post-match 3rd Half was as good as I've seen. The place was rocking. We'll definitely be back to Carrick. 

Elsewhere, we had games set up at Cooke RFC, Larne RFC, Donaghadee RFC & Lisburn RFC. 

At all the games, the spirit was wonderful. A refreshing reminder of the old-days of our game, a time before Ego's and Investment unarguably re-shaped the men's game especially. The games were contested well on the pitch & toasted just as well off it. Professional or not, the competing countries all did their bit on inspiring the next generation of players. 

This carried on to climax at the final on Saturday night. The result of the game was (almost) circumstantial. It was a mere celebration of the fastest growing women's sport on earth. The atmosphere at Ravenhill Stadium was brilliant. What a great venue, despite its cringe-corporate name.

The girls from Tynedale RFC, Workington Zebras, Kendal, Creighton, Old Northamptonians & Brantford Quins were all brilliant tourists, not a frown in sight. 

Away from the Rugby, it is always good to get out and about in Belfast. Everything you think you know about the city, forget it. It's the friendliest, most bustling city around & whether it's for a rugby tour or not, it should make its way up your bucket list. I was first here in 2009, and the difference since then is astounding. The place is buzzing.

The 'Quins team stayed in the halls at Stranmillis University, a brisk ten-minuter from the city centre. They had free run of the building which worked superbly. It's a shame that these places only take external bookings in holiday times as they are superb. 

From outstanding pubs like the Harp Bar, Duke of York, Bittles Bar, The Bot & McHughs, to world class tourism experiences like a Black Cab tour of the troubles & The Titanic Museum, it's a wonderful place to visit.

The 'touring' highlight was the obligatory visit to the North Coast with Brantford on Thursday. First stop was Dunluce Castle, a medieval ruin perched on the cliff edge. It's one of the many Game of Thrones venues in Antrim, fewer more opulent. 

The Giants Causeway always inspires, but the visit to Bushmills was incredible. A tasting experience in the oldest building on site was superb, capped off with a toast, which for me summed up the whole week - "There are no such things as strangers, just friends we are yet to meet."