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Dutch delight for Dereham-formed Oxfam Crusaders at Amsterdam Sevens

PUBLISHED: 08:30 09 June 2016

Oxfam Crusaders Sevens. Picture: ELLEN AFFLECK

Oxfam Crusaders Sevens. Picture: ELLEN AFFLECK

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A sevens side's stunning success on the continent was masterminded in Dereham.

Oxfam Crusaders – established as an elite team in the short-sided form of the game in 2012 to raise funds for charity Oxfam – saw off some of the best teams in the world to get their hands on silverware at the Amsterdam Sevens. The glory was the crowning moment of the group’s remarkable rise – which was formed by Will Affleck and his father Francis.

The 23-year-old former Dereham Sixth Form College student and a group of friends from Norfolk have turned the ‘Crusader Nation’ into an elite team that showed their worth in the Dutch capital.

Although they lost to an Ireland side two weeks out from Rio 2016 qualifying in the opening game, Crusaders went on to win what Affleck described as “one hell of a Plate”.

The Crusaders’ captain said: “We were poor in the first game and they are extremely organised, but then we hit our straps and never looked back.

“We went on to beat Monaco, ERC Diok, Switzers, Millfield Academy and London Lemurs, before beating The Hunters in the final who had a number of ‘Tribe Sevens’ and internationals in their ranks. They were a really class outfit and it was a great final.

“All of these teams were great people and posed a real challenge. One thing we are massive on is respect and representing and this I hope makes us very approachable and perhaps the biggest achievement all weekend was the further exposure for Oxfam and all the new friends we made.

“Amsterdam is an amazing tournament, the standard of everything is so high, the referees, the players, the organisation, the facilities and the atmosphere. We’re so proud to have won the Canon Cup (Plate), which is the second available trophy.”

Affleck’s partner Eleanor Boyce of North Elmham ran the London Marathon to support Oxfam in loving memory of her grandmother.

Crusaders players are drawn from all over Norfolk – including Shaq Myers from Norwich while Matt Henma, Craig Wilson, Mark Kidson and Will Affleck play for Bury St Edmunds – but the family feel continues with Franck, Jenny and Ellen Affleck all having roles in the set-up.

“Alongside our efforts on the pitch we pride ourselves hugely on upholding the value of rugby, sevens, sport and charity,” added the team’s skipper.

“We finished in the top-eight in Amsterdam last season which we thought was a remarkable achievement. We stay strong to our Norfolk routes and sevens in Norfolk is in a good place with lots of good sides, like Samurai, doing their thing.”

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