Edition 26 April 2018, by John Mahnen
Whoever coined the phrase, “Life is better at the beach” was spot on when it comes to sports. Since its inclusion in the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, beach volleyball seems to have been the harbinger of more beach sport from archery to zumba and everything in between. Taking its rightful place in the sand is the sport of rugby and from 26 to 27 May, the third edition of North Sea Beach Rugby will take place in the Hague at the beach in Scheveningen.
Beach rugby is a sport that is based on rugby union. There is no centralized worldwide regulation of the sport as in beach soccer or beach volleyball, but leagues are common across Europe and the sport is particularly popular in France, Italy, Portugal and Spain. Casual games are played across the world using different sets of rules, but organized leagues use a field that is only a fraction of the size of a standard rugby field, far fewer players on each team, shorter matches, and a simplified scoring system. Like other popular tournaments such as British Beach Rugby in Bournemouth and the Marseilles Beachfives in France, North Sea Beach Rugby is played according the “Beach 5” rules. As the name would suggest, Beach 5 is a fivea- side game with a pitch measuring 25 by 25 meters. There are no line-outs or scrums and once held or tackled, the player with the ball must dispose of the ball within 2 seconds or be forced to hand it over to the opponent on the spot. This rule is particularly useful in keeping the action moving along. Playing in the sand is tiring and requires frequent substitution. A team may swap out its lineup piecemeal or all at once using any of up to twelve registered players. The complete line change is a tactic often deployed by teams to keep fresh legs on the sand. A game is made up of two halves lasting 5 minutes each with a short intermission.
The tournament is held under the auspices of the Dutch Rugby Federation (NRB) and the European Beach Rugby Association (EBRA). Teams from the UK as well as sides from France, Germany, Portugal and Spain will be taking part. On Saturday, a youth tournament will be held as the organizers are keen to ensure that event covers both recreational and elite sport. Schools in the Hauge will targeted for promotional events to increase the awareness of rugby among the area youth. The seniors will be competing on both tournament days. Altogether, there are competitions for seniors men and women and youth teams U14 and U16. To keep the action fair, some 20 international officials will be enforcing the rules. The tournament will be held at The Hague Beach Stadium, a unique venue built up on the Scheveningen sand every year. The Beach Stadium was erected for the first some 12 years ago near the Carlton Beach Hotel in order to host a beach volleyball tournament and has returned the Scheveningen sand every year since. It has since made its summer home at the Southern end of the seafront. It plays host every year to a multitude of events with not only Beach Rugby, but Beach Baseball, Beach Cricket and yes, even Beach Korfball on offer this season making the Stadium truly the home of the beach sports specialists. Groups can also make use of the numerous beach courts for their own activities and reserve using the online booking system. The sport canteen is a great spot for a drink and a very reasonably priced bite so even if you are not refueling after a bout of beach sport, it’s a great place to imbibe next to the sea. The 2018 food menu features not only one of the best burgers in the neighborhood but a new light fare to help keep off what was burned off sporting in the sand.
Admission for spectators to the 2018 North Sea Beach Rugby tournament is free of charge. The matches start at 11:00 on both days. The action promises to be great and the atmosphere even better, so rugger or not, head down to Scheveningen for two great days of sport and fun. Life is indeed better at the beach!