Hammersley is star as scratch team conjure up shock in sevens
HULL Ionians' centre Simon Hammersley helped a scratch team of students conjure up a big shock in Europe's biggest rugby sevens tournament.
The talented teenager, who is a former Hymers College student, ran in seven tries as a hastily-assembled squad of undergraduates from two rival English universities took the world famous Heineken Kinsale Sevens by storm in Ireland.
The 19-year-old economics student was one of five scholars from Durham who teamed up with 10 from Bath to take the competition in County Cork by storm.
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The students, playing under the banner of sports brand "Pride, Passion, Party," delighted a large crowd with some sizzling rugby over two days of competition, only just falling short in an annual event which attracts experienced teams from across Europe.
The side, put together by New York-based party company Amscan International, were the youngest at Kinsale with an average age of just 20. Yet their first team steamed through the group stages of the Elite section finishing top of their section with a 100 per cent record.
In the elite section, they started by hammering top Latvian side Kurshi Livonia 45-0, then they sprang the biggest surprise of the weekend by beating reigning champions Susie's Exiles from Amsterdam 17-10. Finally, they claimed the scalp of Chillax Sevens 17-0 to progress to the knockout stages.
In the semi-finals, the PPP students swept aside Soho Sevens 31-15 to go through to the decider against Susie's Exiles who had won the event three times in the previous five years. But, despite putting up a brave fight, the experience of the Dutch side proved the telling factor.
In the open section, the PPP students reached the semi-finals, thanks largely to Hammersley's side-stepping skills, but injuries to key players took their toll and they missed out on a final place by one try.
"I'm incredibly proud of all these boys," said head coach Alex Keay, a former Saracens star who is now Director of Rugby at Durham University. "Considering we put together two groups of players from different universities and they had only had one training session on the eve of the competition, it is a fantastic achievement to reach the final and a semi-final of such a big competition.
"The rugby we played was breathtaking at times and I know, from listening to the crowd, that they took to our lads right away.
"The team that won the Elite competition are vastly-experienced and travel around playing sevens rugby. For our lads this was their first time as a team and, even though we were beaten in the final, we were still winners in my eyes."
More than 80 teams from Ireland, the UK and across to Eastern Europe, took part in a tournament which will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year.
Hammersley is a multi-talented sportsman having represented Hull Schools at football and East Yorkshire at cricket as well as playing for Yorkshire under-16s and under-18s and the North of England under-18s at rugby.