Catch up time – Friday Night Lights at the New River Stadium has become something of a tradition on the eve of the Challenge Cup Final attracting fans down in London for the weekend to watch a game of rugby league and attend a beer festival.

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The opposition for this match were Toulouse Olympique, a team that was formed in 1937, they’ve made several attempts to join the rugby league system, namely Superleague having won the French Rugby League Championship 6 times.  They were denied a licence in 2009 and had a spell in the Elite One Championship in 2011, this proved to be unsuccessful. 2016 saw them admitted into League 1 – the 3rd tier of English Rugby League.

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The 2 teams had played at the same venue a few weeks earlier with the French team running out winners by 12 points to 52.  The gap between a fully professional team and a part time one was obvious that afternoon.

This is being written long after the fact so will be mostly about the photos rather than the facts.

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The result of this second match at The New River Stadium mirrored the first, with the final score being London Skolars 14 Toulouse Olympique 58.  At the time of writing Toulouse have won 13 of the 14 games they’ve played drawing the remaining game.  They’ve scored 702 points and conceded 184 – they’re clearly destined for the Championship.  I believe this team will take that league by storm too and make their way into Superleague to join their French compatriots Les Catalans.

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London Skolars sit mid-table having won 8 of their 14 games, a good return in 2016 after a difficult year in 2015, hopefully they’ll continue to improve in 2017.  As a club in the South the Skolars do a great job of spreading the rugby league word working in their community and with many young people.

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London Skolars are also involved with the Barnet & Southgate Rugby Academy – as per the Skolars website here’s an explanation –

The partnership aims to support the development of the best young rugby talent in the north London area.

The separate Categories form part of the RFL’s new Player Performance Pathway development and seeks to offer students a pathway to professional Rugby League in an education setting.

The BSC Rugby League Education Academy operates just below the Super League and Professional Clubs Tier 1 and Tier 2 Academy programmes. It offers aspiring 16-19 year old Rugby League players the following:

  • • 6 hours a week of expert, high quality Rugby League coaching Monday-Friday during the day
  • • All training and Rugby League development built into a full-time Academic study programme, alongside their educational qualification at Barnet and Southgate College.
  • • Free Physiotherapy Clinic Support led By England National Setup Physio
  • • Individual Strength and Conditioning programming and free gym membership

In addition, players represent BSC Bears in the RFL FE U19 competitions on Wednesday afternoons in fixtures against other Tier 3 academies, allowing an extremely high standard of competitive Rugby League player development, whilst still being available to represent parent clubs at weekends and throughout the summer season.

Students can study an array of full-time academic FE qualifications, although it is very strongly preferred and advised they study a sports course in order to get the maximum from the package. If they do study a sports qualification, then the players will also be put through coaching qualifications (RFL Level 1 Coach Award, possibly also Level 2 if committed enough) and official’s qualifications. They will also be offered the chance to do other NGB Qualifications and be expected to complete 36 hours of applied, targeted, compulsory work experience in the sports industry, much of which could be done assisting Junior Teams within the London Junior League clubs.

This is an exceptional opportunity for any 16-19 year old to be able to combine a quality education with first class Rugby League playing in a crucial development age for players. The College has a proud and longstanding track record of successful accomplishments in Rugby League throughout the last 10 years. Many graduates have gone on to earn contracts with London Broncos and London Skolars, whist there are a number of International and Regional representative caps and team successes in this time.

Barnet and Southgate College is the only Category 3 setup in London and the immediate vicinity and therefore represents a unique opportunity for players to access this player performance pathway setup.

The partnership aims to support the development of the best young rugby talent in the north London area.

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